To Robert Griffin III – Baylor University quarterback, recipient of 2011 Heisman trophy (and lots of other awards), wearer of awesome socks, earner of Bachelor’s degree, graduate student, top NFL draft pick, and all-around cool guy
Dear Mr. Griffin,
I have a ten year old son, coincidentally named Griffin, which makes our family cheer for you even more. Griffin, like his dad, is a sports fanatic. He wakes up in the morning, eats breakfast while reading the sports page of the newspaper, rushes through his to-do list, and watches Sportscenter until it’s time to leave. He knows players, stats, strategies, plays, rankings, and all kinds of other information way beyond my wheelhouse. He plays soccer voraciously, though he’d love to play any sport involving a ball if the week held enough hours. If he weren’t dangling off the lefthand edge of the growth chart, he says he’d play football. (He’s gonna have to climb over his mama’s cold, dead body to realize that dream.)
Our family had season tickets last fall for Baylor’s football games – in the endzone, right next to the tunnel where you and your team run out onto the field. Every Saturday, my son leaned over the tunnel and cheered as you led the Bears out of the locker room. “RGthreeeeeeeee!” he’d yell in the lowest possible octave a ten year old can achieve.
When the Heisman Trophy presentation aired (up until this year, I didn’t even know there was such a televised event), our entire family gathered in the family room, our hearts pounding for you, and we jumped up and cheered when your name was announced. We hugged and high-fived and fist-bumped. We were so happy for you.
I immediately went to the internet to find Superman socks for Griffin’s Christmas stocking. Wouldn’t you know they were sold out at every possible site? (except for eBay, where I could plunk down $200.) I found Angry Birds socks instead, and Griffin wears them proudly.
He loves sports, and he sprints through life with the passion of an athlete. But, like many ten year old boys, he wants to do life on his own terms. He doesn’t want to hang up his towel, finish his dinner, turn off the television, complete his homework – and any attempt to convince him otherwise is met with an obstinate, often disrespectful argument. He’s a stubborn one, that boy. I don’t know where he gets it.
One night, after another long day of power struggle ping-pong, my husband and I laid catatonically on the sofa when an ESPN program came on. You were training with Coach Terry Shea to prepare for the NFL draft – you, who have a Heisman trophy, who have earned the respect of fans and foes alike, who set records upon records upon records. I confess I wasn’t really paying attention at first. I’m just not a sports girl, and you and Coach Shea were talking about things that don’t hold my interest.
But then you went to the training field. He told you what to do. You replied – clearly, respectfully – “Yes, sir.” And you did it.
I sat up. I stared. I hit “record” on the remote control. And I marveled.
Mr. Griffin, my enormous respect for you – and your parents, who clearly knew what they were doing – has increased tenfold. With those two simple words, you wrote a treatise on success.
After my son got home from school the next day, I played the recording for him. “Watch this closely,” I said. His eyes fixed on the screen, and the corners of his mouth curled into a smile. He admires you so much.
“What did RG3 do when his coach gave him instructions?” I asked him when the program finished.
“He said, ‘yeah, okay’ and then he did it.”
“No,” I corrected him, “that’s not what he said. What did he say?”
“He said, ‘yes, sir.’”
“And what do you think would happen if RG3 said, ‘no, I don’t want to. I want to do it this way’ or ‘I’ll do it later’?”
At that moment, a switch flipped. The light came on. He got it.
We talked about how you, with all of your talent and hard work and success, still humble yourself under the leadership of your coaches, how you respond to them with respect. How you have achieved so much by listening to those who want you to be all that you were created and designed to be.
And how, just as He does for you, God has amazing plans for my son’s life – plans none of us can wrap our brains around, plans greater than our imaginations can contrive – and the only way for him to be a part of those plans is to listen, to obey, to act in humility and respect.
Later that evening, I told Griffin to turn off the Rangers game, take a shower, and get ready for bed. “Then you can watch the game until it’s time to go to sleep,” I added. I waited. And then, accompanied by an angelic chorus, his response floated gently to my ears.
So thank you, Mr. Griffin, for so simply and perfectly illustrating what we have been trying for years to teach our son. Thank you for being the kind of hero and role model we can celebrate for all the right reasons. And please pass along our thanks to your parents.
With greatest sincerity,