Washington Redskins  

 

Robert Griffin III: A day in the life of the Redskins' new face

DALLAS -- His work done Thursday, Robert Griffin III headed home to Waco to await several Washington Redskins receivers who were flying to Baylor University to attend a players-only workout led by Griffin. The quarterback needed to serve as the one-man welcoming committee.

Summer is a time of relative rest, but Griffin isn't choosing that option. He took a week off following the Redskins' minicamp to hang out with his fiancée and some family members, but don't think he was at peace.

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"Anyone who knows me knows a week off is a big thing for me because I'm always on the go," the Redskins' franchise quarterback said.

Griffin's plate is overflowing. Even Thursday, while NFL.com tagged along during an all-day Subway commercial shoot, RG3 rarely stopped to take a breath. Yet he always wants more.

As he hustled through the day, Griffin couldn't ignore what was going on at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. He couldn't pretend he didn't know that at the U.S. Olympic Trials in track & field, the qualifying round of the 400-meter hurdles -- his event -- was currently taking place.

A driven, hungry athlete, Griffin didn't deny he's thought about going for more. Even as he goes for so much.

"My dad was talking to me about it (Wednesday night) and he was saying that a lot of my peers, the guys that I beat growing up, are running at the trials," said Griffin, the former Baylor hurdler. "And ... it does suck. I mean, that's the only way to say it. It sucks. But I'm definitely fortunate to be in the situation that I am, being in the NFL, being a franchise quarterback for a team with the opportunity to go out and do an infinite amount of things."

The Heisman Trophy. The No. 2 overall draft pick. An adoring public at his fingertips, along with a fawning marketing world. Is that enough?

Among the list of athletes trying to advance to the Olympic trial semis in his event were Justin Gaymon, Jeshua Anderson and Lee Moore. Griffin beat them all in the 2008 NCAA championships, for instance. So you can see why ...

"If I wake up one day and it's 2016 and I say I want to go run the hurdles again," Griffin said with a Cheshire Cat smile, "I can do that."

The pause we'll take now is to allow Redskins coach Mike Shanahan to overcome his panic attack. Everything OK? Even his marketing agent, Mark Heligman of Creative Artists Agency, did a double-take and joked, "Can we scratch that remark?" Don't worry, Mark. Shanahan knows there is nothing more important for RG3 than football. And regardless of what his handlers think, Griffin just likes to speak his mind -- sometimes in a tongue-and-cheek manner.

Griffin wasn't serious, right? Sure, he was 2007 Gatorade Texas boys track athlete of the year. Sure, he won Big 12 gold and earned All-America honors at Baylor in the hurdles before he concentrated on football. It's just that he doesn't settle for, well, anything.

Still clearing hurdles

Griffin spent Thursday morning at Motion Imaginary Studio A, where he was immediately presented with a hurdle. The new face of the Redskins needed to clear the obstacle placed on the green screen as part of his race to a nearby store in an upcoming commercial. To help ease him through it -- did we mention it was 7:30 a.m.? -- the director asked a crew member to lower it for him.

Griffin refused. Not his style. He hopped over it like he was right back on the track.

Robert Griffin III earned All-America honors on the Baylor track team.
Robert Griffin III earned All-America honors on the Baylor track team. (Courtesy of Baylor University/)

"It's pretty ironic that on the day the Olympic trials have the prelims for the 400 hurdles," Griffin said, "I ran my first hurdle in a long time at the Subway shoot."

Ah, the wonderful world of RG3 ... where hurdles are cleared with ease. Where you can joke -- we think he was joking -- about qualifying in a world-class event in your second sport. Where you ask teammates to fly to Waco, and Santana Moss, Pierre Garcon and company come running.

"We knew we needed to get together," Griffin said of his teammates. "Shockingly, I convinced them to come to Waco. It's a good sign. Especially as a quarterback, going to the rookie symposium showed me how much of a rookie I'm not, just when it comes to the mindset. I have to be the franchise quarterback of this team. So, for those guys to show that they're willing to come to Waco, Texas, to work out with me lets me know they believe in me."

Griffin smiles, even when he's working. By hour four of the Subway shoot, the company's "Famous Fan" was in good spirits. When a member of the crew crossed in front of him, Griffin pointed out, "Nice booties," referring to the man's shoes that won't damage the stage. A camerawoman told him, "One second," and then took longer. "More like two seconds," he added with a smile.

"Once he gets going, it's just like that -- natural for him," his fiancée Rebecca Liddicoat said. "He enjoys being around people."

It's obvious. The ease at which he performs makes it seem like the shoot is taking place in his living room and the director and crew are his guests. Griffin delivered one in about 75 different lines for a variety of Subway products in Spanish. He told the crew a story of seeking out a Subway during the NFL Rookie Symposium when he didn't want a cheeseburger, and he cracked about how NBA star Blake Griffin is a rare Subway brand ambassador to not have a championship.

"Hopefully it happens to this Griffin before that Griffin," he joked during an on-camera publicity interview with Tony Pace, Subway's global chief marketing officer. He said the plan is for Griffin to be involved in roughly six commercials. This is his non-football life now.

Suddenly, RG3 is a brand everybody wants a piece of.
Suddenly, RG3 is a brand everybody wants a piece of. (Courtesy of Subway/)

Liddicoat has been with Griffin for years, going back deep into their time at Baylor. After Griffin took a redshirt year in 2009 thanks to a knee injury, she watched him start 13 games and earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors for a 7-6 football team in 2010. It seemed like no one noticed.

Then came his senior year, a 10-3 season and the Heisman Trophy. It has all changed for both of them.

"When I started dating him, I realized he was really good," Liddicoat said. "I wished he got more attention. It was like, 'He goes to Baylor, so he's not getting attention.' And then when he finally did a little bit in the season after, he got injured. Then this past year, it just went crazy and I was just so happy that he finally was getting the attention he deserved and so was Baylor. We went from thinking, 'Oh yeah, he could get drafted' to 'Wow, he's going to go really high.' It kinda still is just sinking in."

Griffin sounds like he doesn't crave the attention. He doesn't mind it, but he also doesn't seek it out. Sure, he does advertisements for Subway, Adidas and Evo Shield. But he doesn't endorse what he doesn't use. He picked Subway because he ate it during lunch every day at Baylor. He picked Adidas because he wears their stuff.

"You got to pick what you truly believe in," he said.

All of this comes with being a celebrity. With a smile that he might as well trademark, it's part of the deal.

"We've been pretty busy, pretty crazy, a lot of traveling, going from here to there," Liddicoat said. "But throughout it all, he's focused on football. What he really wants to be doing is working."

Great expectations

Griffin is the fervent Washington fan base's best hope to find the playoffs for the first time since 2007. He's well aware of this, too, adding that he'll never have to arrive at FedEx Field wondering if there are fans. Not wanting to disappoint, Griffin left the Redskins' training facilities for the summer with his mind deeply buried in the playbook.

"Whenever you go from one offense to a new one, the toughest thing to tackle is just the rhythm of the play," Griffin said. "If you can get in rhythm with the play -- first read, second read, third read, fourth read -- you know where to go with the ball in any situation. I think that was the toughest part of OTAs, just learning a new offense and having to figure out that rhythm on the go. It's like trying to learn the salsa in a week. It's not that easy. So, it takes more time than that."

Having put a whole mess of mistakes on tape since the draft, Griffin has a baseline for learning. That's what he wanted, to screw up and start the education process. To dive into the offense and really feel it, learning about the scheme from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Expectations are high. Unlike No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, Griffin has talent around him. He's in a comparable situation to Cam Newton last year, and all Newton did for the Panthers was eclipse 4,000 yards and account for 35 touchdowns.

Griffin is aware of Newton's prowess. But he doesn't set individual goals. He never has.

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"I want to help the team win more games than they won the previous year," said Griffin, whose Redskins went 5-11 in 2011. "I don't want to put a limit on things because the sky is the limit. It's the old cliché. If you limit yourself, you can't do anything. I think everyone knows that we're striving for greatness. By not defining what our ceiling is doesn't mean that we don't know what our foundation is."

What is realistic for the Redskins?

"It's up to us," he concluded. "It's up to us to decide if we want to be great or not. From the looks of it in practice, looks like we're going to have a really good defense. It's our job as an offense to put up points. We're talented guys, but (we have to) help bolster the locker room and have everybody believing that we can go do this. From what I've seen, everybody believes that."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet

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