INDIANAPOLIS: The man who could be the future of the Browns’ franchise wears Hello Kitty socks.
Or not, if his prospective employer objects.
“I’ve worn Hello Kitty a couple times, but I’m not wearing them right now,” Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “If they don’t want me to, I won’t do it.”
The choice was Ninja Turtles on Friday as RG3 stepped to the podium and lifted his pants to flash his irreverently clad ankle, just as he had during the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
In the stuffy Bruno Magli world of the NFL, Griffin was a Birkenstock, one of the most refreshing draft prospects ever interviewed at the scouting combine. And arguably no team needs refreshing more than the Browns.
Griffin gave a hint of what he could provide in the locker room, in the huddle and for fans in the stands, leaving a massive media contingent longing for more. He oozed charisma, charming the crowd with his wit and his smile.
He was irreverent and funny at times, thoughtful and respectful in others.
He didn’t hesitate to make light of the pre-combine speculation that he was barely over 6 feet. “Six-foot-2 3/8 and 223,” he said proudly. “We didn’t lie about my height.”
He seemed genuinely glad that the number that has been all over the map is finally set and he’d cleared the league’s invisible 6-2 bar with three-eighths to spare.
“In high school I was 6-4, 200 pounds,” he said. “So when I got to college I shrunk an inch and gained weight; I was 6-2, 220. I guess they thought I just shrunk some more, I was 6-foot and 190 now. You try to block those things out, but at the end of the day numbers don’t lie.”
A few minutes later, when asked to compare himself to the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton, Griffin repeated his measurements and added, “I’m not letting that go.”
That should be the Browns’ mantra after they met with RG3 at the combine Friday night. Not only would his amazing athleticism be a huge upgrade over Colt McCoy, but also the ‘What will he do next?’ quality to his game and his personality would bring a needed jolt of energy.
It would also sell tickets, which can’t be ignored by a team whose stadium was filled with Terrible Towel-wavers on New Year’s Day.
There are other less flashy options for the Browns. Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who will be a free agent if not franchised, has been schooled for four years in the West Coast offense. Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, rated third at the position in this draft class, also knows that system well.
But after listening to Griffin, I believe he’s worth the price the Browns will have to pay to trade up from No. 4 in the first round to select him. They will evaluate his unique abilities, but I was struck by the individuality that seems to draw people to him.
“He’s a very different and unique personality,” Baylor receiver Kendall Wright said. “You can tell by the socks he wears. Any kind of socks that are crazy looking.”
Wright’s favorite was the Superman socks with red capes streaming down the back that Griffin wore to the Heisman presentation.
“I didn’t know he had them and I don’t know where he got them from,” Wright said.
Griffin didn’t seem to mind explaining his sock fetish, even though it involved some self-deprecation.
“It started my sophomore year in high school,” he said. “I wasn’t one that really matched all that well. That’s why the socks usually never match anything I’m wearing. It’s to show I’m comfortable with who I am, I’m comfortable in my own skin. The socks are just a representation of that.”
Griffin had other nuggets that captivated an already captive audience.
Asked who he was, Griffin said, “That sounds like a paper from my English class,” drawing laughter. But he went on. “Happy go lucky, like to make people laugh, but know when to be serious as well.”
Asked about the influence of his parents, Griffin seemed surprised at the shortness of the question.
“Aw, that’s the end of the question, yeah,” he said. “Both my parents were in the military. Mom did 12 years, dad did 21, served in two wars. Discipline was something that was obviously huge. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it. If you start it, you finish it. Yes, sir; no, ma’am. You’ve got to have that kind of structure in your life. It kind of helped me be that disciplined person I am, whether it’s with workouts, film, or just the game of football.”
If the Browns have concerns about whether Griffin can direct their West Coast scheme after playing in Baylor’s spread offense, his military background and work ethic could help allay their fears.
That could be the essence of whether Griffin becomes a Brown. Marketability might not be a major factor. But those who think it will play no part are being naïve to the state of the NFL, which decided in 2003 it needed its own network. RG3 is a brand the Browns can sell.
As the Browns search for difference-makers, the fact that Griffin loves being different sets him apart even more.
He might even be able to persuade fans to take off those grotesque dog masks they’ve worn for nearly three decades and find a new identity. Sixty-one days from now, Hello Kitty socks might be in order for everyone.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://marla.ohio.com/. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.