Robert Griffin III continues to impress week in and week out, on the field and off, and even after becoming probably the first Dallas opponent to ever hear his name chanted at Cowboys Stadium, he remains remarkably well grounded, a credit to his upbringing and family values.
He is a rare breed, News4's Dan Hellie says, not just as an athlete, but as a person. He just gets it.
On and off the field, this 22-year-old has hurdled the impossibly high expectations imposed upon him by a fan base starving for wins and hoping for a savior.
After just 11 games in the NFL, RGIII has proven that he doesn't just have it, he is it.
Hellie sat down with the star quarterback for an interview and learned a lot about what Griffin says is the “right way.”
DAN HELLIE: If you had to pick one, what’s one play that you hearken back to or think about?
ROBERT GRIFFIN III: I think everyone points to the run against Minnesota, but I just think the way the team has come out the past two games, the way we’ve played, the attitude we’ve played with, those would be the signature moments ‘cause they define our season, and we gotta come out on Monday night and win the game and approach it the same way we did the past two, and I’m confident that the team will.
HELLIE: We’re one question in to this interview, I’m trying to dig deep into Robert Griffin III, and you’re already going team on me. There’s not one of the Pierre catches, there’s not something that you say, “That’s pretty good.”
RGIII: I mean, Pierre’s catch this past week was pretty good. It was the only place I could put the ball, and he made the tough catch and ran it in for the touchdown. When he’s been able to play, he’s been pretty spectacular for us and we’re glad to have him out there.
HELLIE: It was a pretty sweet homecoming for you to go to Dallas just two hours from your hometown, and I don’t remember if it was the first touchdown pass or the second or the third or the fourth, but at some point, they started chanting “RGIII.” Did you hear that?
RGIII: I did hear the chants of “RGIII.”
HELLIE: What did you think of that?
RGIII: It’s crazy that you hear those chants. I’m a Texas kid, so there’s a lot of fans of myself and what I’ve been able to do throughout my whole career playing football, but whenever it comes to the NFL and you know how the rivalries are with the Cowboys and the Redskins, to hear them chant my name in Cowboys Stadium was something you thought would never happen, but it happened.
HELLIE: According to Jerry, it’s never happened, so that’s a first, I guess. Everybody fears something. What was your biggest fear coming to Washington, D.C., to be an NFL quarterback?
RGIII: You try not to fear too many things. I fear God, I fear my parents, but you don’t want to let people down, and some would say that’s pressure, but I didn’t fear it. I just wanted people to know that I don’t plan on letting you guys down and I don’t want to let anybody down, so that’s why I work hard. That’s why I believe in myself and I trust myself when I’m out there on the field, because you don’t want to let people down, and it can push you to go farther than you thought you ever could.
HELLIE: My high school basketball coach always said that he was motivated by the fear of failure. Is not wanting to let people down a fear of failure to them, is that the main motivation for you?
RGIII: I don’t know if it’s the main motivation, but there are multiple types of motivation. There’s the fear of failure, and I don’t want to fail. It’s not that I fear it – that’s not in my vocabulary. I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to fail anybody. But my main motivation is to keep the people around me safe and secure – my mom, my dad, my fiancée, my two sisters – to make sure that they don’t ever have to want for anything, that my future kids don’t ever have to want for anything, and playing football happens to be that mechanism, but it’s more than just about the money. It’s also about being able to have your name mean something when it’s all said and done.
HELLIE: You talk about your family a lot and obviously you’re very well-grounded, tremendous morals and family values. It comes from your parents, and they moved here with you but not with you. Your dad takes the Red Line in from Gaithersburg just like my dad does every day. At some point are you going to say, “Dad, it’s OK to chill out,” or is that not in his DNA?
RGIII: It’s not in my dad’s DNA to chill out. I’ve told them multiple times that I can help them financially, and when they do need help, they ask me, but for the most part, he’s a man’s man and he wants to do it himself, and I applaud that, so for the next couple of years if that’s what he wants to do, then I don’t mind, but at some point he will have to stop, and I can take on that burden ‘cause taking care of my parents isn’t a big issue, but I applaud him and I tip my hat to him for doing what he’s doing, continuing to work, because he doesn’t want anyone ever to say that he had anything handed to him.
HELLIE: So much has been written about the relationship between you and your parents, your father specifically, how was he able to walk that line of being an overbearing parent and doing what you wanted and needed to be done to be successful?
RGIII: I think he walked the line perfectly, because I had the mindset that I wanted to be what he was trying to help me be. A lot of kids have parents that can be overbearing and push them to play sports or be in the band or whatever it is that parent wants them to do but the kid doesn’t want to do it. So I had the want-to, and he had the know-how. So he taught me everything that I knew, and if the coach told me to do something, it’s not that my dad would come back and say, “Don’t do what coach told you.” He said, “All right, do what your coach told you, but also remember this while you’re doing it.” And it was big, because there were a lot of days I did some hard workouts and I want to do those workouts, but after the workout, I didn’t want to that workout anymore. And he continued to push me because he knew where I wanted to be. So when I was 11, 12 ‘til I was 16, I didn’t know any better. My dad told me to run 100 hurdles, I ran 100 hurdles. When I hit the age of 16, 17 and I started getting tired, then it was kind of like, “Well why am I doing this?” I needed to know why, and he always explained it to me. And it wasn’t as though I did it as willingly as when I was 11, but I did it because I knew it would help me be successful.
HELLIE: He has during training camp and some of the OTAs gone to the Redskins website and watched video and called you and analyzed your drop back and certain things you did. Will there get to be a point where you say, “Dad, I have the best coaches in the world, I’m an NFL quarterback, I’m good!”
RGIII: I think he just looks at it from a different perspective. The coaches are good at what they do, and never would I do something that my dad told me to do that my coach absolutely told me not to do, so he knows the boundaries. He knows what he says is heard, and it might not always be, “All right, Dad, you’re 100 percent right.” We might talk about it for a few minutes and debate about it and come to no conclusion at all, but he knows what he told me was heard and that I’ll take it to heart no matter what he says.
HELLIE: Jerry Jones said he was in awe of what you were doing in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. Is there anybody that you were in awe with when you met the veterans in the locker room here at Redskins Park?
RGIII: Yeah. Once I knew I was going to be a Redskin there were a couple of people that I wanted to meet: London Fletcher, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. So you do find yourself in awe of those guys a little bit when I first got there, because you don’t know how they’re going to accept you. You don’t know how they’re going to be. Is it the guy that you thought he was? And they all turned out to be the people that I thought they were. Tana’s real cool, laid back. Cooley’s funny.
HELLIE: He’s a little weird, too.
RGIII: He’s a little weird, but we all know this. I can say that on TV. He’s a little weird. And then Fletch is business. That’s what he is. It’s cool to be on their team, to have them on my team and to have those guys vote me as their captain.
HELLIE: In college you said that when you first got there, you didn’t socialize a whole lot because you wanted to prove to them that you could be their quarterback, even described yourself as kind of a loner. Did you take that same tact when you got here?
RGIII: Yeah, but it’s different in the pros. In college you can kind of socialize because you’re always around the same guys even if you don’t go out and eat dinner with them. You’re going to be in the same classes, you’re going to be in the same hall eating lunch, you see them around campus. They’re just there. You form relationships that way so whenever you do go out and do whatever college people do, you don’t necessarily have to be there for them to know that’s my guy. But in the pros there is nothing like that. You’re here for practice and then you’re gone and you have to be more active in it, so I try to be more active – going to dinner, meeting up with guys and getting to know them as who they are and talking to them, but as far as, “Hey, you’re my best friend,” yeah I left that stuff to form on its own, because you have to prove to them I work hard, I’m going to be in the weight room, I’m going to be in the film room, and when it’s time to play ball, I’ll be ready to go, and I think that’s how you can earn friends a lot more in the NFL than being buddy-buddy with them and then not going out and performing.
HELLIE: As we grow older you have to make an effort to keep friendships and to build friendships and to make contact. Do you say, “Man, I haven’t seen this guy in a while. Let’s call him up and have dinner.” Because it’s so easy for you just to go home, chill with your fiancée, watch a movie. Is that something that you remind yourself I need to maybe reach out more or do you do that enough?
RGIII: I try not to get to the point where I have to remind myself. I talk to guys about football all the time, and when I have those moments when I can talk to them about real life or just interests or “How’re your kids?” things like that, I take advantage of that. I try not to bother guys because I do know who I am, and if we go out to dinner anywhere, it’s going to be chaotic, so I try to adjust what I do based on that, and guys respect that, because if they want to go to Hooters or wherever they want to go and not have “RGIII” there, then that’s fine, and I don’t mind that, but if they really want me there, they let me know and I’m there. It’s just about being able to talk to guys about other things other than football or to just be able to hang out with them and show them that you truly care, you’re not just here for the money.
HELLIE: You could just borrow (Brian Orakpo’s) sunglasses that he’s always wearing and hide behind those things. You ever thought of that?
RGIII: No I have not, but Rak’s got a deep voice. I can’t imitate him.
HELLIE: Has anything surprised you so far about being the quarterback for the Washington Redskins?
RGIII: It’s what everyone told me it would be as far as the media attention, the fan craze, being able to not do too much, everybody knowing where you’re at and what you’re doing, so from that aspect it hasn’t. I think the one thing that surprises you as a player is some people are who you think they are as far as your opponents, and then some people aren’t, and you learn that on the field, whether it’s trash talk, the way they talk to you after the game, things like that. It’s no disrespect. Some guys are as advertised and some guys just aren’t, and that’s how it is.
HELLIE: What is the craziest thing that someone has said to you on the field?
RGIII: There’s a lot of crazy stuff that I can’t repeat, but I think one of the funniest things is one game early in the year, one guy comes up to me and they had hit me repeatedly throughout the game and they were like, “We’re gonna hit you every play.” I looked at him and I said, “Man, isn’t this football?” And he didn’t really know what to say. Teams are going to trash talk you, try to get into your head, and as long as you have that mindset, I don’t mind getting hit. I stayed safe since I got put out of the Atlanta game. I think the fans appreciate it. I think my teammates appreciate it, ‘cause I’m showing them it’s not just about me. I’m doing it for them. Because it’s not in my nature to do those kind of things.
HELLIE: You mean slide and stuff like that.
RGIII: Yeah, slide and run out of bounds and things like that, but to me it’s not about being soft anymore. It’s just about being safe.
RGIII: Preservation. Be aggressive. Know when you can run down the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown and know when you need to run out of bounds or slide.
HELLIE: The best quarterback, in your mind, to ever play the game? I know your dad had you study tape of (John) Elway and (Dan) Marino and (Jim) Kelly and all the greats, and a lot of people consider you almost a cyborg of all these great quarterbacks. You have great assets. You have the mind, the arm, the legs. In your mind, you pick one guy, who’s the best quarterback that ever lived?
RGIII: Well, there’re a lot of great quarterbacks that played before my time, before I started watching football, so I can’t really comment on them, but I know the best quarterback in my mind, probably because I’m a little bit biased, was John Elway. The way he played the game. How he fought throughout his whole career to get that one title and then ended up getting two before he decided to get out. It was just amazing to watch him play, to see (current Redskins and former Broncos) coach (Mike) Shanahan do what he did there, and that’s what we’re trying to do here – go out and win championships.
HELLIE: Did you read the sports page or listen to sports talk radio – I know you say you try not to do it during the season, but I’m assuming sometimes you just can’t help it.
RGIII: I try to avoid anything talking about me, but I listen about other people. Not all of the time, but if I catch it and it’s not Redskins talk, I’ll listen it if I have a minute or two and then turn it off, but I try to stay away from Redskins talk because it’s usually one way or the other – really, really good or really, really bad. You just sure you try to stay even-keeled.
HELLIE: What’s something you’ve heard or you’ve read that somebody has said about you that you’ve said wow because you’ve had so much respect for that person?
RGIII: The Giants with (Justin) Tuck talking the way he did after the game. Osi (Umenyiora) talking the way he did before the game, before the season and then after the game. It shows you the respect you earn from your opponent. Osi said he was going to call me “Bob,” and then after he saw a few games he said he’d call me “Sir Robert,” so it’s kind of funny to hear those things. I met Osi before the year at the draft during a Play 60 event and he was a cool guy, but it shows you they don’t respect you until you prove it to them. I’ve proven it to them, I’ve proven it to my teammates, and it makes you feel good like you’re doing it the right way.
HELLIE: I remember after that game I saw you running off to catch one of those guys. You make an effort to go talk to those guys – it’s not like you want to be buddy-buddy with them – why do you do that?
RGIII: It’s not an act. To me, I go into a game respecting my opponent and then if you do something in the game that makes me not respect you, then that’s that, but I won’t ever point it out. But I went into the game and I’ve respected them for what they’ve done, who they are, ‘cause you always go out and try to respect your opponent, but you’re still trying to beat them. So after the game, we lost a tough game, but you go find those guys and tell them, “Hey, it was great playing against you. I respect you as a player.” And it funnels over into the media. It’s not something that you try to do so they go talk about you really good. I probably could have not went and saw them and they probably would have said the same things, but I made an effort to go see Osi just because of all the media hype about him talking about me and him calling me certain names. I just wanted him to know that I know that’s just him talking.
HELLIE: A little showmanship.
RGIII: Showmanship just about the game. And he respected me after it. We’ll go into Monday night and we’ll respect each other from a distance and play the game, but at least you know that guys see you’re doing it the right way and that you’re not acting out there. You’re really, truly respecting them.
HELLIE: Thanksgiving Day game, the first nationally televised game you’ve played in the NFL. Monday Night Football against the Giants is going to be huge for this franchise. How much do you get juiced up for those primetime games?
RGIII: It doesn’t get much brighter than Thanksgiving or Monday night games, so it’s not that the rest of the games don’t matter, you just know that when it’s time to show up and play, you show up and play, and our team’s done that this year and we’ve gotta continue to do that on Monday night.
HELLIE: This is the most excited I’ve seen this town about a 5-6 team. Five games left: What constitutes a successful season for the Redskins at this point?
RGIII: To me, success can be measured in many ways, but I think for us, as a team, it’s just about the mindset. You don’t quit. Doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t matter if we beat the Giants and they win the rest of their games and we don’t make the playoffs. Who cares? As long as we take care of our business and make sure we put our best foot forward every single game, then it’s a success. There’s no amount of wins, there’s no amount of losses, there’s no playoff berth or no playoff berth that can measure that. It’s just about that locker room. The day I see guys in that locker room quit is a day I’ll be extremely disappointed, ‘cause I don’t see that in the guys we have.