Bear QB after RGIII keeps the vague faith

As we roll through the semi-holy football season of minor bowls, I am happy to report that The Los Angeles Times team noticed that the Baylor Bears had another winning season and, apparently, are playing in some game out on the West Coast.

This means that the Times needed to produce a feature story about the Baylor team or one of its stars. That’s in the bowl-season handbook, I am sure.

Anyway, those who follow college football — this includes two or three GetReligion readers — surely know that the Bears were, for a completely logical reason, not expected to do very well this season.

Why is that? Well, because You Know Who won the Heisman Trophy last year and then ascended to instant NFL stardom with that team that (for Texans and, in my case, prodigal Texans) shall not be named up in Washington, D.C. I mean, how is the Baylor team supposed to survive without Robert Griffin III?

This is the angle that the Times team jumped on. How would you like to try to follow the RGIII act in Waco, Texas? Thus, here is the logical opening:

SAN DIEGO – Nick Florence didn’t need this.

The Baylor quarterback already had his degree in economics. He was a fall semester from earning his MBA. Life could have been so simple. Instead, he embraced a difficult job. A really difficult job.

A year ago, Robert Griffin III was the first player from Baylor to win the Heisman Trophy. There are weekly reminders, with Griffin having an exceptional rookie season with the Washington Redskins.

Florence was next up in Waco, Texas.

“I never told him that he shouldn’t expect to be Robert,” Baylor Coach Art Briles said. “But I put it out there that everyone else shouldn’t expect that. I think, arguably, he had the toughest position to fill in America, following a guy who won the Heisman and is as dynamic as Robert is on and off the field.”

The thing is, Florence has come close to matching that.

At this point, the story finds many football-related ways of noting that Florence’s Baylor career has been the essence of self-sacrifice and quiet achievement, while RGIII was the man out front. Now, he had one year of eligibility left and, lo and behold, he has managed top put up Heisman-like numbers on the field.

This would not, however, require the attention of GetReligion. Later in the story, Florence gets to speak:

“I happened to follow a Heisman Trophy winner,” Florence said. “That had nothing to do with who I am.”

Florence knew what he faced when he came to Waco from Garland (Texas) South Garland High in 2009. Griffin, considered one of the nation’s top high school quarterbacks the previous year, was the Big 12 Conference freshman of the year. Florence anticipated a waiting period.

“Football is a huge part of my life, but it is not my entire life,” said Florence, who has been named to the dean’s list three times. “I felt this is where I was supposed to be. Faith is a big part of who I am. The education was good, the community would challenge my faith and I would still get to play football.”

You see, Florence had to become the quarterback at the world’s largest Baptist institution of higher learning. A key part of his story — as with RGIII — is linked to his religious faith and the ways he has expressed that in service and in campus life at Baylor.

You can’t tell Florence’s story, including how he gracefully handled following Griffin, without mentioning this religion element.

So the Times saw the logical story. The Times team even included one quote that pointed to the obvious. The bear minimum? You bet.

But that’s that. Nothing to see here, in terms of who Florence actually is as a person and a football player. It’s time to move along.

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.


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