December 12, 2011
Sometimes good guys finish first. Saturday night, Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy, college football’s highest award. His unlikely story is worth reflection this morning.
Griffin was born in Japan, where his parents, U.S. Army sergeants, were stationed. The family moved to Washington state and New Orleans before settling in Copperas Cove, a small town in central Texas. Their son soon demonstrated astounding athletic skills as a track star and football player. When Art Briles became head football coach at Baylor, he persuaded Griffin to play for him. He excelled as a freshman, but his team finished 4-8. He tore up his knee early in his sophomore season, as the team again finished 4-8. Last year he led Baylor to a 7-6 record, their first winning season in years.
This year Griffin led Baylor to upset TCU, Oklahoma, and Texas on the way to a 9-3 record, their best in a quarter-century. He has set 46 records during his college career. He recently won the Davey O’Brien Award, given to the nation’s top quarterback, and now he is the first Baylor player to win the Heisman.
Griffin earned his bachelor’s degree in three years, finishing with a 3.67 GPA in political science. He will finish a master’s degree in communications next spring, and plans to attend law school. He is also expected to be a top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Robert Griffin is known on the Baylor campus for his faith as well as his football skills. He attends University Baptist Church, where my oldest son attended worship while a student at Baylor and Truett Seminary. God has entrusted him with a unique combination of outstanding intellect, NFL-quality ability, and world-class speed. And he has been an excellent steward of his gifts.
You probably can’t run the 400-meter hurdles in 49 seconds or throw a football 70 yards, but God has given you skills and opportunities he has entrusted to no one else. Here’s the catch—our culture measures us by what we do in public, but God measures us by who we are in private. Mary didn’t know that her submission to God would make her the most admired woman in history. Joseph didn’t know that his silent obedience (he never speaks a word in Scripture) would make him a model for faith 20 centuries later.
A craftsman uses a tool best when it does what it was intended to do, yielded to a greater purpose than it can comprehend. A paintbrush doesn’t make a good hammer. A disobedient apprentice is not much help to a master painter. In Michael O’Brien’s magisterial Island of the World, we find this simple advice: “It is enough to be who you are. That is the word you bring into the world.” Who, and whose, are you?