WACO, Texas – In the same place where Robert Griffin III proposed to his fiancée, he sealed the deal with some other important people in his life:
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and coach Mike Shanahan.
"You can't help but be impressed by everything he does," said Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the head coach's son. "You see how people respond to him."
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In other words, he was engaging, which is perfect considering the location.
On Oct. 23, 2010, Griffin led Baylor to a 47-42 victory over Kansas State, putting the Bears into a bowl game for the first time since 1994. Still, there were bigger plans. Griffin had arranged to propose to girlfriend and fellow Baylor student Rebecca Liddicoat that night under a tree where the couple had often gone to share a quiet moment.
Griffin didn't simply have a ring ready. He had called Liddicoat's parents for permission to ask their daughter to marry him and asked them to come to town for the big moment. Griffin also had his parents, both his sisters and his niece on hand. His mother Jackie helped him pick out the princess-cut diamond ring and all the family members were supposed to hold candles while he dropped to one knee.
Griffin topped that off by enlisting offensive lineman Taylor Douthit to play guitar while he sang a song he wrote himself.
There was one hiccup. It rained that night.
Suddenly, Jackie had to kick it into high gear to find an alternative spot. As she drove down University Parks Drive, she spotted the lights on at the Baylor University's indoor football practice facility. She hustled to get permission and threw it together in a matter of minutes.
"That military training came through," said Jackie, who served in the Army along with her husband. She shut off the lights (it was well past 10 p.m. by this time), arranged the family members by the Baylor seal at midfield, placed Douthit on an observation deck above the field and waited for her son to show up with Liddicoat.
Griffin's father, Robert Jr., waited in the bathroom to pass the ring to his son and then the couple headed out to the field. Liddicoat asked why they were there. As Douthit started to play, Griffin started to sing as he walked her to midfield. When they arrived, the family members turned on the electric candles and Griffin dropped to one knee.
"Everybody started crying," Jackie said.
By contrast, Griffin's performance on Wednesday in his workout wasn't nearly as serious, but it was every bit the show. While such workouts are usually so scripted (not to mention lacking a defense to compete against) that getting any real sense of a player is nearly impossible, there were still plenty of things to observe.
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Such as how Griffin interacted with teammates and staff members throughout the day. Such as how he held his four-year-old niece Jania's hand as he walked her around.
Such as how he went to grab the equipment for drills himself rather than having to be waited upon hand and foot. Such as how he cheered his teammates, flashed his million-dollar smile and simply enjoyed the whole process. After throwing one bad pass, he came back immediately to throw a great one, turned to Baylor coach Art Briles, smiled, pointed and said, "Never two in a row." The two then high-fived.
At this point, there is little doubt that the Redskins are taking Griffin with the No. 2 overall pick in next month's NFL draft. Barring a change of heart by the Indianapolis Colts, who plan to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at No. 1, Griffin will go second.
In fact, Griffin could have done literally nothing Wednesday in his personal workout and been the obvious No. 2 pick. Teams don't trade three first-round picks and a second-rounder to move from No. 6 to No. 2 to take any player other than a quarterback.
So seemingly with little on the line, Griffin was electric, charismatic, entertaining and mature.
Washington needs all of that. The Redskins went all in on this trade to get Griffin after two years of suffering through Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck. For Shanahan, he particularly needs to finally get a franchise quarterback after going a dozen seasons since last having John Elway.
It's not for a lack of trying. Shanahan has gone through young quarterbacks the way Newt Gingrich goes through wives. From Brian Griese to Jake Plummer to Jay Cutler, Shanahan has searched again and again for a passer to fit his play-action based attack. On Wednesday, Shanahan was mum after Griffin's workout, but he looked pleased.
"I can't speak on behalf of coach Shanahan. He has been through a lot more than I have," the Heisman Trophy winner said. "But, of course, since Elway, he hasn't had that guy you can associate him with. Hopefully, I can be that guy if I'm available at that spot. I want to be that guy … that he can nurture and build up."
This was but one in a string of mature responses from Griffin, who alternated between serious and funny with just the right modulation.
While the performance has to be taken for what it's worth – a practice against air – his athletics gifts were obvious. Griffin has the footwork of a dancer to go with speed. His speed on a series of bootleg passes was breathtaking. He also did the passes in rapid pace, showing off the skills that might translate to more spread looks by the offensive-minded Shanahan.
All the while, Snyder and the elder Shanahan carefully watched every moment. The night before, the Redskins contingent took Griffin, Liddicoat, his mother and father to dinner. At one point, Snyder expressed concern to Robert Jr. about how money could go to the young man's head. So many players, Snyder said, get a little money and start driving to practice in a Bentley.
"I told him, 'If Robert shows up in a Bentley call me and I'll come up there right away,' " Robert Jr. said.
Somehow, it's unlikely that the Redskins will have to worry about that. This looks like a marriage you can trust.
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