Heisman finalists await announcement

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 9:23 p.m. MST

Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Robert Griffin III attends an informal roundtable conference with journalists, Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Associated Press

NEW YORK — Robert Griffin III was working on about 4 1/2 hours' sleep after catching an early flight from Florida to New York on Friday.

Not that he was complaining. Griffin will trade sleep deprivation for a chance to bring No. 15 Baylor its first Heisman Trophy any day.

"This is what it is if you're going to play well and your team is doing great things," he said shortly after taking his seat at a table surrounded by reporters and video cameras in a hotel conference room. "People are going to want to talk to you, they're going to want a piece of you. It's exciting."

The Bears' thrilling dual-threat quarterback was one of four Heisman finalists to arrive in New York on Friday afternoon, along with LSU defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and running backs Trent Richardson of Alabama and Montee Ball from Wisconsin.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was in Baltimore receiving the Johnny Unitas Award and was scheduled to arrive in Manhattan on Saturday morning, about 12 hours before the Heisman will be presented.

Griffin and the other finalists came straight from the college football award shows in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday night, where he picked up the Davey O'Brien award as the nation's best quarterback.

Luck entered the season as the clear-cut Heisman front-runner after turning down a chance to be the first pick in the NFL draft to return to Stanford for one more season.

He was excellent, passing for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns for BCS-bound Cardinal (11-1).

But on the way to what seemed like an enviable Heisman victory, RG3 zoomed past Luck with a memorable closing month, highlighted by victories against Oklahoma and Texas.

"After the Oklahoma game all the players on the team realized that if we won out and we did it in style ... we'd be here," he said. "I say we'd be here because that's who I'm here for. I am here for those guys.

"The Texas game was probably the most pressure we had all year to win a game. And we did it in convincing fashion."

Griffin and the Bears beat Texas 48-24 on Saturday in Waco, Texas, to finish the season 9-3, Baylor's first nine-win season in 25 years. Lifting Baylor from the doldrums — along with passing for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns — is a big part of why Griffin is expected to break a Heisman trend on Saturday night.

Seven of the last eight winners, including Reggie Bush who later vacated the title, played in the BCS national championship game, like Mathieu and Richardson will. The Southeastern Conference rivals meet again Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

"It was a slugfest out there," Richardson said about LSU's 9-6 overtime victory in November. "I can't wait for this rematch."

The recent exception to the BCS title game-Heisman connection was Tim Tebow, who won it in 2007 playing for a Florida team that finished the regular season 9-3.

Griffin has some of that Tebow magnetism: good looks, a bright smile, comfortable in front of the camera and adored by his home fans.

He's not quite Tebow-famous, but he's no longer just a regional star.

"To be in Orlando and have guys screaming, 'RG3!' and 'Sic'em Bears,' that's amazing," he said. "Baylor fans are everywhere now."

Luck and Griffin are both from Texas and were in the same 2008 recruiting class. They could have formed a dynamic quarterback duo at Stanford.

Griffin said he took his only recruiting trip to Stanford and loved the campus. Then-Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh pitched a two-quarterback system to Griffin, in which Griffin would share the job with Luck.

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