Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Lightning in a Bottle

In August of 2008, we were at the first Baylor football game of the season. Eager to catch a glimpse of a highly touted recruit, Robert Griffin III, we had been counting down the days to this contest and excitement was palpable in the stadium.

After allowing the senior QB to start the game, we watched a long and lanky guy trot out onto the field to take over as the signal caller. He was wearing #10 and he immediately brought the crowd to its feet. I remember like it was yesterday. And his fancy footwork and break neck speed dazzled fans throughout a lackluster season. 
  

 The future was looking bright.

As the 2009 season began, the Baylor faithful knew this was the year. We were finally going to become bowl eligible again. There was no doubt in anyone's mind Griffin was the right young man for the job and Art Briles is an offensive mastermind. Everything was in place and was going well.

Obviously a much younger Taylor is pictured here :-)


Until University of Louisiana - Monroe came to town.

We collectively gasped as we saw Robert go down after what appeared to be a knee injury. We watched him intently on the sideline and cheered as he went back into the game. As he threw touchdowns and scampered around defenders, we thought all was well. But he did not come back for the second half. The next day our worst fears were confirmed when it was announced he had suffered a season ending ACL tear.


This was also the year Taylor suffered a major break in her elbow, had a plate and six screws placed in her arm and suffered through grueling therapy. She immediately felt a connection to Robert, who was her favorite player and - quite frankly - first crush, as they were "going through this stuff together."

I, in fact, have a photo gallery depicting each step of his rehab. From game to game. My girl took all of those photos and treasures them to this day...

Nick Florence stepped in during that season and came thisclose to leading the team to a bowl game. All they needed was one win and they were so close to getting it during the last game of the year (vs Tech) that it haunted the players throughout the offseason. Their words, not mind.

When the 2010 season came around, there was no doubt in our mind. This was the year. And it was, y'all! There was lots of this...


...engineered by this guy...



We followed the team across the state...


...and eventually ended up here...


...where we lost. It wasn't even close. But we'd been to a bowl game. And I got a picture with Phil Taylor. Things were looking up and then we met the man himself at a Lady Bears' game.


I told Robert my daughter had been injured around the same time he had and they had rehabbed at the same time as well. That she had used him as inspiration. And, y'all, he looked at her and said, "Then we're just like this (while crossing his fingers), right, Taylor?"

And that's when he became one of the most precious people ever to this mom.

Besides, we had him for two more seasons, right?

Maybe...

As this season began, we were pumped. I had us pegged going 9-3, which we did, though we didn't do in the manner I had anticipated. I have never ridden a rollercoaster more exciting than this past football season. From the first game versus TCU it was an instant classic.


Taylor even got her prized pink jersey signed at the fall scrimmage. Funny thing about the picture: a couple of days before, RG3 (as he was now known) had given an interview about the crazy socks he wears. He indicated a love of pink and how he would like to have Hello Kitty socks but they're really expensive.

When he saw the pink jersey, he absolutely loved it and even asked Tay, jokingly, if he could keep it. I told him that we had indeed heard of his affinity for pink to which he said, "I have no idea what you're talking about, ma'am."

This photo was taken the moment Nick looked over and said, "I know exactly what she's talking about and you do, too, man."

And we all laughed. Such a fun memory. Such an amazing young man who always made you feel like you were the most important fan in the world.


And then it happened.

The OU game thrust Robert into the middle of the Heisman Trophy discussion and he capped an incredibly season against Texas on the last weekend of the season. As it became clear he might actually win, I had the opportunity to work on a number of promotional projects that were a professional dream.

And then came the night of December 10, 2011. We cheered and jumped up and down as his name was read. Perhaps we had truly captured lightning in a bottle. Our Clarke Kent had morphed into Superman right in front of our very eyes.


The Alamo Bowl came and went and, with it, we notched our 10th win. It was an incredibly special game but I was still holding out hope it wasn't the last time we had seen Robert in the green and gold.

Alas, it was, and my co-workers and I watched his press conference with mixed emotions. This is a young man we've watched grow up. He has been an incredible part of the revitalization of Baylor football. And he will always be a Bear. He's a part of the family and nothing about that will change. In fact, he's still mentoring younger players on the team while training for the NFL combine.

He is a class act and we will never forget the immense blessing it has been to watch as he caught lightning in a bottle and made it a priority to praise the One who made it possible in all turns.

Thank you, Robert, for being a precious person who made my daughter's year when you took the time to make her feel special. We shall forever be fans and wish you all the best in your new endeavors.

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