Editor’s note: The following story originally ran in the Lariat’s Dec. 12, 2011, Heisman Issue.
By Tyler Alley
It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.
But that was then.
Students and fans can celebrated the best of times with junior quarterback Robert Griffin III’s Heisman victory and the overall success of Baylor football. Alumni, moreover, can look back at how Baylor football performed during their years and be even more thankful.
“This is just unbelievable,” said Russell Trippet, class of 1977. “This is the proudest I’ve ever been of Baylor. Can’t imagine it getting better than this. It’s worth all the down times.”
Trippet said he grew up in Waco and started going to Baylor games when he was 5 years old, more than 50 years ago. His father was a team doctor, and Trippet would sit on the sidelines. He was in New York when the Heisman winner was announced.
“I just went crazy,” he said. “We were at the Baylor network dinner. Everybody went nuts. There were 100 alumni in the room.”
Trippet was not the only Bear outside Texas with a celebration story. Whitney Wilson, a political science major from the class of 2000, lives in Denver, Colo., and said she was at a neighborhood grill when the announcement was made.
In an email to the Lariat, Wilson said everyone in the place was rooting for Griffin. Many people teared up during his acceptance speech, which she said was “touching, humble, thoughtful, well spoken and sincere.”
Jon Rolph, a member of the class of 2001 with a degree in telecommunications, now resides in Wichita, Kan.
“Like the rest of Baylor nation, I was ecstatic for him and for the university and everybody associated with Baylor,” Rolph said.
Rolph came in as a freshman during Baylor’s second year in the Big 12 and said there was a lot of excitement with a new coach coming in.
“Then we were awful,” he said. “We had six wins total in my four years here. Everybody at school loved the team, poured into it, but it was never good.”
Rachel Goodlad, a journalism major from the class of 2006, also has plenty of bad Baylor football memories. She said Baylor fans from her era were used to having their hopes dashed and did not know 100 percent Griffin would win.
“I think that Baylor fans were expecting it, but people were still holding their breath,” Goodlad said. “People in my class were used to the team winning two games, used to hoping for something good to happen then having it slip through our fingers. We wanted to wait until it was official.”
Goodlad also said much of the credit for Griffin’s victory should go to Baylor’s sports information department, which she worked for as a student.
“They deserve a lot of credit for this season,” Goodlad said. “Keeping voters up to speed with Robert, making sure he was out there doing interviews, getting his name out there. Making sure hype was out there.”
Rolph said he gives much of the credit to Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw.
“College football now is about great coaching,” Rolph said. “McCaw has brought in great coaching and great talent, but it’s also talent with integrity and leadership.”
Earl Shanks, a member of the 1979 class, comes from a family with multiple generations of Baylor grads.
His father went to Baylor, and his father-in-law played in the 1952 Orange Bowl for Baylor. Shanks said his father-in-law “yelled like a kid” when he saw that Griffin had won.
Allen Thompson, from the class of 2002, also said he had a very personal connection with Griffin’s victory. He said he takes two things from Baylor’s success this season, the first being his ability to enjoy it with the friends he made at school.
“And secondly it reminds me of my father who passed away from cancer in 2008,” Thompson said in an email to the Lariat. “He would always call me after any Baylor win regardless of the sport. I know he would have been so proud of not only RG3 but also the entire past two seasons. I couldn’t be prouder to be a Baylor Bear.”