Way up on the top shelf of Robert Griffin III's locker, over on the right side, is an Incredible Hulk action figure. After Griffin's clinical dismantling of the New Orleans Saints last Sunday, that little piece of interior design just about sums up everything we know of the Washington Redskins' franchise quarterback.
See, the Redskins have largely kept the No. 2 overall pick under wraps. Griffin came to Washington after the draft, had his face slapped on the side of an 80th anniversary bus and was anointed the starting quarterback in May. But he hasn't sat down for an in-depth, what-makes-him-tick interview session since. He does once-a-week group press conferences with the media and he's so in line with the rules, when a visitor from California tried engaging him in small talk last week, he kept his lips together and just smiled.
Then this past Sunday, in his NFL debut, Griffin threw for 320 yards. And two touchdowns. On 19-of-26 passing. With a 139.9 quarterback rating. He had head coach Mike Shanahan positively giddy and he had Spike Lee desperate for a hug. He handed the Saints their first loss in the Superdome in 21 months, he had more than 500 fans in the away building chanting "R-G-3" and he still didn't talk much about himself.
On the shelf below the Hulk, there is another set of smaller action figures. Each one has a personally-typed caption, perfectly sized to the width of the shelf. Army Strong. Sacrifice. Conquer Every Obstacle. (The one below the Hulk reads: Be Unstoppable.)
Griffin has typed up two other signs in Redskins' maroon lettering: Know Your Why. And Forget about being MVP; forget about being in the Pro Bowl. Those are nice consolation prizes if you don't get a Super Bowl ring. Asked about them, he self-deprecatingly said his fiancée had to tape them all up, because he doesn't do so well with paper and tape. And then he quickly said, don't worry, she came into the locker room when no one else was there.
Read: He knows his limitations. He knows when to ask for help. He cares enough about the little things to come in on his own time. He's going to do what works for him.
"That's just him," veteran linebacker London Fletcher said, laughing and shaking his head as he thought about the figurines. Fletcher showed up to conditioning this summer and found the Redskins' equipment manager had put Griffin's locker next to his. Fletcher embraced it and tried to impart daily bits of wisdom. He made sure Griffin kept his things inside the imaginary line separating the two stalls. Then Griffin decorated. And Fletcher, in his 15th season, knew the kid was going to be just fine.
"If that's what he needs and that's what he's used to kind of keep him motivated, focused, eyes on the prize -- that's great," Fletcher said.
How could they not? After a full, successful, in many ways unexpected career, Fletcher re-signed with the Redskins in no small part because they'd made a monstrous trade to get Griffin. Cofield watched his old team, the New York Giants, win the Super Bowl in his first year with the Redskins. He hoped his new team was getting better, and then Washington got Griffin. "Everything's new," Cofield said.
Earlier Sunday, a few minutes before 8 a.m. in New Orleans, Shanahan was asked how he'd be able to tell if Griffin was affected by the enormity of the moment, if he got too excited or tried to do too much. Shanahan said it just wouldn't happen, that he didn't think Griffin would be susceptible to anything that afflicts rookie franchise quarterbacks in their debuts.
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He wasn't. Three and a half hours before kickoff, Griffin slowly walked the circumference of the field, listening to his music (he said it's mellow and it has a little Michael Jackson mixed in) and wearing a shiny new sport coat (he'd mock complained about having to buy suits for road trips, saying, "Thanks, Coach"). An hour before kickoff, he watched the halftime marching band practice and got in line with them, high-stepping as well as anyone else. He wrote "heart" across the chest of his warmup shirt (though that got him in a bit of hot water with the league).
And in the end, when his first weekend was all done, Griffin was exactly what the Hulk said he would be: incredibly unstoppable.