An illustration of a man wearing a bluish-purple suit holding a football

Illustration by Alecia Rodriguez

Robert Griffin III is back—not on the field, but as a popular commentator for college football and the NFL. The Heisman-winning former Baylor quarterback, known as RGIII, has also returned to Texas from Florida, having recently relocated to The Woodlands with his wife and four daughters. “It feels right,” Griffin says. “It’s home for us, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds here.”

An Army brat who was born in Japan, Griffin adopted Texas and its football fanaticism when his family settled in Copperas Cove, west of Temple, in 1997. “I started to understand that one thing that Texas holds near and dear to its heart is football, and that was kind of the start of my growing to love the game,” he says. Griffin took Copperas Cove High School to state twice while breaking Texas records in track, before going on to help revive Baylor’s football program with his gaudy stats and dynamic play.

His NFL career, which started with extraordinary promise, was stifled by a series of brutal injuries. But Griffin found a new way to use his game experience starting in 2021, when he signed with ESPN. He’s become a fan favorite for his animated, unfiltered analysis; his willingness to lean into stunts like racing a hawk on the field or jumping into a lake while still wearing one of his trademark natty suits; and his natural way of translating his takes into sharp, opinionated social media content.

Now, he’s more in demand for his breakdown of plays on Monday Night Football’s pregame show and college broadcasts than his play calls in the huddle. His personality and opinions have become as much of a professional asset as his football acumen. “When I do my broadcast, I’m just authentically myself,” he says. “I’m glad people get to know my sense of humor, how I see the game.”

TH: How did your family’s move to Texas shape you?
RGIII: In Copperas Cove, just like all across Texas, the whole town stops every Friday night to cheer on their team. That part of it was easy for my family because we had always been into sports—all my sisters played. That sense of community has helped me get to where I am.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that’s not a throwaway statement—it’s the truth. Sean Doherty, my center at Copperas Cove High School, was about 5’ 10”, 250 pounds. I thought he was going to be a Division I center until I went to Baylor and saw that my center there was 6’ 5”, 330 pounds. I didn’t know guys were built like that. But Sean went to a Division II school, and he told me there were more fans at our high school games than there were at the college he went to.

TH: You were initially drawn to basketball and track, which you also competed in at Baylor. What drew you to track?
RGIII: Honestly, the field days at J.L. Williams/Lovett Ledger Elementary in Copperas Cove got me interested. I had a knack for winning those competitions. Running the 60, doing the long jump, or seeing how far I could throw this or that. I just wanted to break records, man.

By fifth grade, there was one record I hadn’t broken yet: the mile. I wasn’t a long-distance runner, so I asked my dad to train me, and he spent three weeks getting me ready to break that mile record. I broke it. I’m not sure if I still have it to this day—it would be a tough record to break. Literally the next day, I saw a sign-up sheet for Five Hills Track Club at school. I went to my dad and said, “I want to break more records.”

TH: Were there any Texas athletes you looked up to when you were younger?
RGIII: Michael Johnson went to Baylor, and he was a big inspiration for me when I ran track. My dad used to make me watch video cut-ups, which were on VHS back then, of his highlights from the Olympics. I modeled my running style after his. Of course, Vince Young at UT. I still have a picture of me and Vince from when I was in eighth grade.

TH: What made you want to play at Baylor?
RGIII: It was an opportunity to do something somewhere where it hadn’t been done before—and I’m not talking about the Heisman. Baylor had gone through a 20-year stretch of not being what they could have been in football. Plus, it was Christian and about an hour away from where I grew up. Texas A&M offered me as a safety. Texas offered me as an athlete, which meant they could have put me at any position. I wanted to be able to go into the conference and show them why they should have offered me as a quarterback—to prove to them that they made that mistake.

TH: It feels like the discussions about Black quarterbacks have changed dramatically since you entered the NFL in 2012.
RGIII: I think there are still lingering issues with that, but it is progress to see so many Black quarterbacks taking over the league. The new prototypical NFL quarterback has all the characteristics that the NFL did not want to accept in Black quarterbacks back in the day. They didn’t want guys who could be creative, who could beat you with their arm and their legs. The negative stigma around that was they couldn’t beat you with their mind. That shift is a cool thing to see, and I’m glad I was part of it.

TH: What do football fans misunderstand the most about the game?
RGIII: The general misconception is that every single guy who plays NFL football is a millionaire, and it’s just not true. The average league career is three years. Most guys don’t even get to a second contract or even through their first one.

TH: Have any of your four daughters shown an interest in sports yet?
RGIII: I love every day of being a girl dad. They’ve all taken to something already, except for Gia at 6 months—the only thing she’s taken to is crawling. It’s soccer for Reese; Gloria loves basketball and tennis and is actually getting into taekwondo now; Gameya, our 3-year-old, picked up on soccer and she’s gonna be a ballerina this year. We’re allowing them to branch out in as many different directions as they want to right now. I encourage all parents to get their kids involved in as many sports as possible. It’ll make them a better athlete and a better person. My wife’s the record holder at Florida State in the heptathlon, so when you talk about genes—yeah, I think our kids have great genes.

TH: Now that you’ve brought your family back to your home state, is there anything you’re looking forward to introducing them to?
RGIII: Everybody thinks they know how to cook barbecue. But I gotta be honest—it’s just not the case. I’ve gone to many, many places outside of Texas that have told me they have the best barbecue. I wouldn’t say I’ve come away disappointed because I appreciate all barbecue. But it’s not been Texas barbecue. That’s something I’m really looking forward to having access to again.

 

Follow Robert Griffin III on X and Instagram, @RGIII. His new podcast, RG3 and The Ones, is accessible on both platforms.

 

From the December 2023 issue
The June 2024 cover of Texas Highways: Treasures from the Coast

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