A while back, I watched an ESPN documentary on Todd Marinovich and it reminded me of some of the workouts Robert Griffin III told me his dad put him through when he was a kid. Recently, I had a chance to chat with RGIII's mother, Jackie Griffin, who is involved with EvoShield's 'Protective Parent' Campaign where we discussed, among other things, why she thinks her son thrived where others recoiled, what her biggest challenge was in raising the Baylor Heisman Trophy winner and her feelings on the issue of parents becoming more reluctant to let their kids play football with all the discussions about concussions these days.
Q: I recall interviewing Robert and his dad for a story back when he was at Baylor about his dad having him run up hills wearing ankle weights when he was a young kid and both talked about how that helped him. Why do you think Robert has thrived when you hear about some others kids like the Todd Marinovich story, where the kid is pushed and they recoil to the structure and to the people really pushing them?
Jackie Griffin: I think it's because of our faith. We have strong faith, and we really grounded our kids at a young age in faith and God. We never steered from that. We stay with that. My son has seen such great success knowing that God is in control and if he just trusts God, he can do anything. We believe that God is going to take care of everything that we need.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in raising him?
Jackie Griffin: The biggest challenge with Robert was trying to keep him from being so hard on himself. He has a spirit of excellence. We instilled that in all of our kids. We always tried to lead by example. Always put your best foot forward whether somebody's watching or not. He will push himself really hard because he wants to do the best job all the time.
Q: How much have things changed for him since he won the Heisman Trophy?
Jackie Griffin: Not really (much) because Robert has been in the spotlight really since he was 11 years old when he was running track. I think God prepares you for everything. He was on a big stage since AAU track was so big, and it was a shocker to us to see how huge AAU was when we first started. Ever since then, he was always in the spotlight as far as track and field went.
I think that was God preparing us for where he is now. Once he won the Heisman, it was a great honor but we still had work to do. We love the accolades and all the awards and that stuff but we know there's still more left to do.
Q: How difficult is it as a parent when you see and hear people making all these judgment about him now?
Jackie Griffin: In a situation like that, my husband always told us -- because as a family we'd always talk about it -- people are going to have their opinion and we can't get mad at people for their opinions as long as we, as a family, understand and know what's really going on and that's all that matters. Don't get mad at 'em. Just pray for them.
Most of them are really just speculating. The only people that really knows the truth are my son and us. It's a free country. You can have your own opinion. That's fine. And that's just the way we choose to deal with it.
Q: You were really fearful of Robert playing football when he was younger. What changed for you?
Jackie Griffin: I didn't like the concept of playing football and watching my son get hit just for fun. I really had a problem with that. He could play any other sport. Once he went to seventh grade, he convinced me. He told me, 'Mommy, they'll have to catch me to tackle me.' And so I said, 'OK' and they never caught him.
But in eighth grade, kids were bigger and stronger, and just as fast as him, but that fear that I had of somebody tackling him, it was gone. He was having so much fun and doing so well socially. And his grades were great. His grades were always great, but they were even better. He was having a great time with his friends. I didn't want to be the person that stopped that. He was flourishing. And that's what sports does for some kids. He had the academic side down. The sport aspect of it made him more well-rounded. I really hope with this campaign, some of the parents allow their kids to have that joy while they're in school.
Q: Do you think it is going the other way with parents becoming more reluctant to let their kids play football with all the discussions about concussions?
Jackie Griffin: Concussions are real. That's not something to be taken lightly. You can get concussions in any sport. It's not just only football. We have to prayerful. Our faith helps us a lot with things like that. We believe God is gonna protect him and even though he got injured, we still believe God is gonna protect him. Sometimes you just have to allow your kids to enjoy and try and seek their goals and don't think about the worst. Think about the best. And if the worst happens, you still have your faith or whatever it is you lean towards in troubled times. Concussions are real. Don't take it lightly. We just have to trust God.