Students of all years celebrate Heisman win

During the Heisman watch party, Baylor fans in the Bill Daniel Student Center cheer as No. 10 quarterback Robert Griffin III is announced as the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Saturday.
Matt Hellman | Lariat Photo Editor

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

Faith: something that holds the promise of a better tomorrow. Something shown by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and the reality of the tomorrow promised by head coach Art Briles when he came to Baylor in 2008.

In its first 12 seasons in the Big 12 conference, Baylor won a total of 11 conference games.

The year before Griffin came to Baylor, 2007, the Bears were 3-9 with no conference wins.

In 2011, the Bears are 9-3 with six conference wins.

For the freshmen, a 9-3 football team is all that they know.

“It’s just a really exciting experience to be here and be a part of it,” Scottsdale, Ariz., freshman Caelen Demos said. “Our class has never seen failure from Baylor. We just saw RG3 win a Heisman, and that’s all we know coming in.”

For the sophomores, their first season in the green and gold broke the 15-year bowl drought.

“Oh man, just school pride,” Houston sophomore Kaosi Egbunike said. “I was proud to be part of something so huge. I loved being able to wear my Baylor shirt back home with pride.”

For the juniors, their first season fell apart early as Griffin tore his ACL.

“I was hopeful that we would be a valiant contender in the Big 12 conference and win the majority of our games, but that didn’t happen, which was disappointing,” Round Rock junior Nick Cestari said. “When Griffin went down with his injury I figured the worst and that Baylor football was done for .”

For the seniors, their first season brought small slices of heaven as Briles entered his first season and Griffin overtook then junior quarterback Blake Syzmanski for the starting job.

“Freshman year, we were just excited that Baylor had a new football coach and a new quarterback,” Tomball senior Ryan Anderson said. “Being a first generation Baylor Bear, I didn’t know much about the football history here pre-RG3, but from what I heard, there wasn’t much to talk about. I couldn’t have imagined that the program would have grown so much from then to now.”

For a university drowning in its history of a basketball murder and associated with the location of David Koresh, faith for a moment like this seemed impossible.

Off campus, students were screaming and running in the streets. On campus, students packed the Bill Daniel Student Center.

A rough estimate of 1,100 students were spread among the den, eating area, Barfield Drawing Room and the basement.

When the time came for the winner to be announced, the “R” sound was all that was heard before the eruption that will change Baylor Athletics.

“The whole place went nuts,” Anderson said.

That excitement has been building since the night of Sept. 2, when the Bears upset then-No. 14 TCU in a thrilling 50-48 season opener.

Since that night, Baylor went 4-0 in November, defeated Oklahoma for the first time, beat Texas Tech for the first time in 15 years and defeated Texas for the second straight year.

“Usually the Line is the place where most of the cheering and screaming is happening, but for the OU game, the entire student section was screaming on every defensive down,” Anderson said. “Not a single person was sitting. When that last touchdown pass was thrown, I don’t think I’ve screamed harder in my life. A random stranger picked me up, but it didn’t matter. We were a Baylor family and it was and has been so incredible having such an energetic student section for the four years I’ve been here.”

This is the promise Briles made in a time of drought and defeat.

In the words of Griffin, and the rest of the team have made this season “unbelievably believable.”