SAN ANTONIO — Since winning the Heisman Trophy, Robert Griffin III is often shadowed by a bodyguard of sorts to dissuade autograph seekers, and this week tucked his dreadlocks under a hat in hopes of strolling through Sea World incognito.
“I got a lot of double-takes,” the Baylor quarterback said. “If you can get a double-take, you can walk far enough away to where they’ll be discouraged to approach you. But it was cool. I didn’t mind.”
Now it’s a question of whether RG3 is about to give college football its last look at him altogether.
The nation’s most electrifying player leads No. 15 Baylor (9-3) into the Alamo Bowl against Washington (7-5) on Thursday night while keeping his decision about leaving for the NFL private for now.
Griffin, who says he can’t “go to Wendy’s and get a cheeseburger without signing 1,000 autographs” since winning college football’s top award, reiterated in San Antonio that he’s undecided about forgoing his senior year. He said his parents are looking at his draft prospects but denies having any substantial talks with them.
Baylor can hardly feel jilted if this is Griffin’s last game.
The fourth-year junior, who also won the Davey O’Brien Award and is the AP Player of the Year, has raised the program’s profile to unseen heights. He rescued the Bears from their perennial status as the Big 12’s punch line and has Baylor on a five-game winning streak, its longest in 20 years.
A win against Washington would match the school record of 10 wins when Mike Singletary was a senior in 1980, and merely playing in back-to-back bowls is a first for Baylor in two decades. Simply put, it’s been a magical season the school doesn’t want to see end.
Washington won’t exactly say the same.
The Huskies stumbled into a second consecutive bowl game dropping four of their last six and losing badly to all four ranked teams they played this season. That included Stanford and Andrew Luck, the Heisman runner-up to Griffin, who coasted in a 65-21 win that began Washington’s second-half slide.
Yet tailback Chris Polk and other seniors still vividly remember going 0-12 just four years ago under Tyrone Willingham. According to the school, Washington is the first BCS program to go from winless to back-to-back bowl appearances in three years since Central Florida in 2004.
“I would have never imagined this,” offensive lineman Senio Kelemte said. “It was pretty hard for all of us, the 0-12 season. I’m pretty sure a lot of guys didn’t really want to play football anymore or wanted to transfer or just … just football wasn’t fun.”
The Huskies have a shot at an eight-win season for the first time since 2001, but it might be a long night against Baylor.
The Huskies will put one of the nation’s worst defenses against the Bears, whose offense was the second-best in the country. Baylor averaged more than 570 yards of offense a game behind Griffin, who threw for nearly for 3,998 yards with a Big 12-leading 36 touchdowns and only six interceptions. That made him the nation’s most efficient passer.
Baylor averaged 43 points a game. Washington’s let opponents score an average of 33.
“We’ve had a huge challenge this whole year playing against good offenses,” Washington defensive coordinator Nick Holt said. “This is good offense and the only difference this time is that we’re playing against the best player in the country and a Heisman Trophy winner who has a great supporting cast.”
“And, oh yeah,” Holt added. “They run an up-tempo, no huddle offense and can score really quickly.”
Griffin is the first Heisman winner to play in a bowl game before New Year’s Day since Ty Detmer led BYU to the Holiday Bowl in 1990. Two years later, Baylor won its last postseason game in the Sun Bowl.
Ending that drought may be the last thing left for Griffin for do.
“We know why we’re here and we came to win our 10th game,” Griffin said. “Washington just happens to be in the way.”