Robert Griffin III was back at the school where he won his Heisman Trophy, but he wasn’t there to polish his statue that stands outside of McLane Stadium.
On Saturday at the Ferrell Center, Griffin was encouraging children and adults to exert themselves with an aerobic workout, yoga exercises and by zigzagging through an obstacle course.
The 25-year-old Griffin looked like a kid himself when he jumped in with the children on the rope pulling competition. He even worked up a little sweat.
“I forgot how much energy the kids have,” Griffin said.
Griffin returned to Waco to kick off his Salute to Fitness event that he also plans to bring to other cities. After growing up in Copperas Cove and becoming the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner at Baylor, the Washington Redskins quarterback wanted to give back to the area where he’s spent most of his life.
“I’m a Wacoan and a Coveite and it’s just good to be part of Central Texas because this is where my dreams were formed and molded and built up,” Griffin said. “So I want to give back to the people here just as much as I do to the people in (Washington) D.C.”
Griffin brought in numerous people to help him put on the event including UNLV strength coach Keith Belton and former Baylor teammates Lanear Sampson, Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi.
John Brenkus, the host of ESPN’s Sport Science, spoke about general nutrition and workouts. Griffin’s goal is to help people become more fit through exercise and to also change their eating habits to create a healthier lifestyle. About 250 people attended the event.
“We tried to explain that a diet is temporary,” Griffin said. “We want you to have a lifestyle change that involves eating better and working out. They don’t run or maybe they don’t like the way they run. But you have to embrace that and realize the way to get past that and get to where you want to be is to do these things.”
Some of the children at the fitness event wore Griffin’s green No. 10 Baylor jersey or Washington Redskins apparel. Grabbing the microphone during the obstacle course portion, he spotted a girl wearing a Dez Bryant jersey and said, ‘Hey, is that a Cowboys’ jersey?”
Griffin was clearly having fun but mostly he liked watching the children enjoying themselves. He hopes he can inspire them like people from his past have inspired him.
“I know there’s a little kid somewhere in these camps and these events that their life will be changed forever,” Griffin said. “I went to a Michael Jordan camp in New Orleans. He never talked to me but being around that and knowing he was there for us made me want to be better.”
Coming back to Waco has been respite for Griffin compared to the pressure cooker he lives in at Washington. After earning NFL offensive rookie of the year honors and leading the Redskins to the playoffs in 2012, Griffin has endured injuries and losing seasons for the past two years.
After he returned from an ankle injury late last season, Griffin struggled and was benched in favor of Colt McCoy. After rising to hero status at Baylor, Griffin has undergone a great deal of scrutiny in Washington.
“It’s a different feeling when I can come back here and train and be at ease,” Griffin said. “When I walk down the street I’m not getting judged because I’m not walking the right way or talking the right way or not saying the right things. It’s really easy to be here. This is where I came from.”
Griffin said he’s been training with Baylor strength and conditioning coach Kaz Kazadi before he returns to Washington D.C. later this month.
“I wish we could get more work together and not have so much downtime but that’s not the way the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) is structured,” Griffin said. “So I have to get work here, and Coach Kaz and the Baylor football team work the way I want to work. I look forward to have that opportunity to take that back up to D.C. and instill that culture change and mindset change that has to happen.”
Despite Griffin’s problems last season, Redskins coach Jay Gruden recently said he’s his starting quarterback. But Griffin said he has to earn the job as he enters his fourth NFL season.
“The only reason I’ve been the starting quarterback for the Redskins is because I’ve earned my spot,” Griffin said. “I’m the best available guy and my teammates see that and the coaches see that.”
On a personal level, Griffin is excited that his wife, Rebecca, is expecting their first child. She also attended Saturday’s event.
“I didn’t think at 25 I’d be having a kid but we just left it in God’s hands,” Griffin said. “He said it’s time, and it is time. I’m overjoyed because I know it’s going to be a life alternating moment. It gives me one more thing to drive me to be the best I can be, not only for my team but also for my family and my baby.”
Griffin plans to always maintain a strong connection to Central Texas. He and former University High School and San Diego Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson will be co-owners of a sports training and therapy facility at 5100 Franklin Ave. that will open March 16.
“I thought it could be a great thing not only for us as owners but also for people who are involved in it,” Griffin said. “It just so happens that (former Baylor linebacker) Eddie Lackey is running the gym. When they told me that, I said I know Eddie, he’s a great guy and a God-fearing man and a great player and I think he will do a great job there. It’s good to be a part of something in Waco that might change people’s mindset toward certain things.”
Griffin is enjoying watching Baylor become a player on the national college football stage. After Griffin led the Bears to breakthrough bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011, Art Briles’ program has soared to a new level with back to back Big 12 championships.
“It’s no longer if they’re going to get to a bowl game,” Griffin said. “Are they going to win 11 games or 12? Are they going to be in the College Football Playoff or be in one of those other bowls? That’s a good feeling. It’s about time we’ve become the powerhouse of Texas.”