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RG3 a Redskin? Baylor/Cowboys fans having (a lot of) trouble with the idea

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
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Wildly popular RG3 is going to win the Redskins some converts in Texas. (Getty Images)  
Wildly popular RG3 is going to win the Redskins some converts in Texas. (Getty Images)  

WACO, Texas -- It's difficult to tell whether fans really mean it in Baylor country, a region that also bleeds the silver and blue of the Dallas Cowboys.

The expression that's not quite a smirk but borderline utter disbelief indicates the fan base that loves to hate the Redskins doesn't yet view the soon-to-be scenario of Robert Griffin III becoming a folk hero in Washington as reality.

They've had enough time to consider the prospect, and likely reality, of the Baylor demigod and Heisman winner being drafted by the hated Redskins. That doesn't mean they've had enough time to accept it.

There might not be enough stages of grief to allow for Baylor fans to reach acceptance, even when Griffin strolls into Dallas Cowboys Stadium wearing enemy colors.

Tye Barrett, who earned both his bachelor of arts and master's degrees from Baylor, wouldn't even refer to that team from D.C. by name -- and that's clearly a universal strategy in and around Waco.

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Barrett has hosted parties at his tailgate spot on the grounds of Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium for the past two seasons. He knows who RG3 is, and he knows the Redskins will likely draft the Bears' Heisman winner.

There's no confusion in his response. The question is commentary.

"Who?" said Paxton Dove, who owns The Dancing Bear Pub near the Baylor campus.

Dove's pub turned up the television volume during the Heisman ceremony when Griffin III's name was announced as Baylor's first-ever Heisman winner.

Dove hasn't ruled out the possibility that the Indianapolis Colts will take Griffin III. Or at least he hasn't given up hope.

Nevertheless, when the Redskins gave the St. Louis Rams three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to move up to the No. 2 spot in this month's NFL Draft, many Baylor/Cowboys fans' hearts sunk.

It doesn't seem likely that the Colts will pass on Stanford's Andrew Luck, and the love-fest between Griffin III and the Redskins keeps on going and growing. So the Baylor/Cowboy fans have started exchanging text messages with some version of the question "Will you like the Redskins?"

The Cowboys definitely have a stronghold in Waco. Vendors could be spotted on just about every corner in town selling T-shirts during the Cowboys' Super Bowl seasons in the early 1990s.

But whether it's the Cowboys' failure to get back to the Super Bowl, the arrival of the Houston Texans or the natural contrary nature of some, Dallas has a little less than 100 percent support in the Heart of Texas.

There are even Redskins fans. In fact, David Smoak, the host of Waco's sports radio afternoon drive-time show, has been a Redskins fan since the mid-1960s.

As excited about Griffin III going to the Redskins as Smoak is, he's even more enthusiastic about what it means for the Redskins.

"Yeah, no question," Smoak said. "When the news came down that Friday, I smiled. I'd rather see them go down doing that than going down with no chance."

Smoak's show, You Make The Call, fields calls from Baylor fans on a regular basis. More than anyone, he might have heard the resignation and sadness in the voices of Baylor/Cowboy fans as Griffin III's fate becomes more evident.

Instead, Smoak said he sees shifting fan loyalty, not just in this case but in general, especially among younger fans.

"The Cowboys have been in a rut, and I think there's a slight crack," Smoak said. "They might become Redskins fans. They would've been a fan of the team wherever he goes. But that kind of surprised me.

"I don't know if fans are as loyal or long-term committed as they used to be."

Smoak believes interest in RG3 will override hatred of the Redskins. To that end, he's already making plans to have a weekly segment with a Redskins beat writer as soon as training camp begins.

Smoak has even considered trying to get the radio station, a Cowboys affiliate, to pick up some Redskins broadcasts, though he acknowledges that will be difficult.

Though he seems to be on target in his assessment of younger Baylor fans and their reaction.

Baylor senior Chris Salazar reckons he will reserve a small slice of his rooting interest for Griffin III.

"I will buy a RG3 jersey and I will cheer for the Redskins and hope that RG3 plays well anytime that they are not playing the Cowboys," Salazar said. "And I will hope that he plays well when playing the Cowboys, just that the Cowboys will play better and win."

Ricky Thompson has been down this road before, sort of. Thompson starred at Baylor at wide receiver in the mid-1970s, was drafted by the Colts and then traded to the Redskins.

He grew up a Cowboys fan, but he said the feeling quickly disappeared when he went to Washington before the start of the 1978 season.

"It took me not very long to convert," Thompson said. "Once you get involved with the Redskins, you are not a Cowboy fan."

Thompson now serves as the sideline reporter for the Baylor Sports Radio Network on autumn Saturdays. During the week he's the president of the First National Bank of Central Texas.

He's happy to be seeing Griffin III go from his alma mater to one of his past employers.

"I'm thrilled," Thompson said. "I think that's exceptional. I told him, 'If you're the first pick, you're drafted by the team that drafted me; if you're the No. 2 pick you're going to the team that I love.'"

For his part, Griffin III stated firmly during his pro day press conference that he did not grow up a Cowboys fan.

"No tension there," he said. "I know there are a lot of Baylor fans that are Cowboys fans. We'll see what happens."

Griffin III wore an easy-going smile on his pro day. He has spent quality time with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and owner Dan Snyder. He said given the time he has toured Washington, he likes the city. He attended President Obama's National Prayer Breakfast and he ran track in the nation's capital as a high school star.

For him, the prospect of going to the Redskins is bright.

Even while the idea makes Baylor/Cowboys fans gloomy.

"When I heard the Redskins made the move I was absolutely bummed out," Baylor/Cowboys fan Bob Johns said. "I hate the Redskins. I won't even have Redskins on my Fantasy football team. I hope he does well, but I won't pull for the Redskins. I hope he can have good numbers and they still lose. I guess I'm holding out hope that the Colts will somehow change their minds and take him."

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