As a Visiting Quarterback, Robert Griffin III Loved Playing the Villain
The ESPN announcer is still proud of leading Baylor to a road win over the Longhorns at Texas Memorial Stadium in 2010
With the college football season in full swing, Goodyear and The Player’s Tribune recently surveyed 68 former Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) players to determine which school has the toughest road environment for opponents and which fans give the home team the biggest advantage as part of the tire company’s new Road Tested campaign. (Get it?)
Per the survey, these are the most difficult places to play in college football.
- Happy Valley, Pennsylvania
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Eugene, Oregon
- Columbus, Ohio; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas (three-way tie)
According to one of the survey’s respondents, former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, that list is backward as he believes that Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, the home of the Texas Longhorns, is the toughest place for the road team to get a win in college football. Griffin, who was Rookie of the Year during his first year in the NFL and played for seven seasons in the league, would know as he led Baylor to a 30-22 road win over the Longhorns in 2010. The victory was the Bears’ first win over the Longhorns since 1997 and their first victory at Texas Memorial since 1991.
As Griffin, who now works as an ESPN analyst, explains, the difficulty of playing at Texas Memorial was not entirely related to the Longhorns. “Everything is bigger in Texas and football means more. At UT, food tastes better after they win and they can’t really see straight when they lose,” he tells InsideHook. “Every single player on our team at Baylor who was from Texas wanted to go to UT. So you’re not just talking about the number of hostile fans and the extreme doubt they’re pouring on your bus is driving in or you walk onto the field through the tunnel, but also this inherent doubt the players have inside of them. They weren’t good enough to play at Texas, so were they gonna beat Texas? Our team had to learn how to overcome that mentally inside that stadium.”
What else did Griffin learn during his years of leading his teams into hostile territory? We asked him.
InsideHook: As a quarterback, how did you handle the pressure of playing on the road?
Robert Griffin III: Playing on the road as a quarterback, the best thing that you can ever hear is silence, right? If I throw a pass, get hit in the pocket and can’t see the completion, it’s a bad thing if the crowd is cheering. If the crowd is quiet and I can hear the footsteps on the grass, that means we had a good play. As a quarterback, you just try to focus on that type of stuff. Your whole job is to go in there and be the villain. You’re the hero to your fan base, but you gotta be Bane in Batman when you’re in front of a hundred thousand people screaming at you because they don’t want you to be successful. You gotta be the Joker, whatever villain you like, and try to make them notice you. Them noticing you on the road means they’re quiet. You want to be that villain for that fan base.
What’s the difference between playing on the road in the NFL versus college?
It’s just a different environment. There’s a different energy level when you’re talking about 18-to-22-year-olds holding up signs and tailgating. College football combines the fandoms of the college kid with the fandom of the adult who attended the college. With a school like Texas, they have like 50,000 undergrads that fill up half their stadium. Then you’re bringing in family members of these kids and even younger fans of the Longhorns. I think that’s why so many college stadiums are bigger than NFL stadiums. The NFL is not the same type of environment. It has a much older fan base. There are parents bringing little children to the game to cheer on the team that they love. I wouldn’t say one’s better than the other. It’s just different.
Did the fire alarm ever get pulled at your hotel when you were on the road?
We got the fire alarm trick at Texas Memorial. We got the fire alarm trick at Texas A&M. We got the fire alarm trick at Texas Tech. The most memorable one was probably at Oklahoma State because they did the fire alarm trick and the food was really bad. A couple of guys didn’t have rooms with working AC. The hotel is in cahoots with the team there. When you get to Oklahoma State, the Gatorade is definitely still water. They make sure it’s a very tough trip for you. They pull out all the stops. I wouldn’t say the fans are trying to food-poison anybody, but it’s definitely fathomable. I never experienced anything like that, but it’s definitely something that could happen. You gotta be ready for anything when you get to some of these really tough road environments.
What was the worst stunt fans pulled on you on the road?
At Kansas State in 2011, somehow the fans got my phone number. They proceeded to call me 500 times that night. After about 10 calls, I put my phone on silent and I was able to sleep peacefully through the night. I woke up and it was text messages, phone calls, voicemails, all types of stuff. Then they asked me about it when I got to the stadium. “Hey, how’d you sleep last night? Anybody call you?” It was a funny thing and it’s not like it really bothered me that much. But, we ended up losing that game.
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