The Impact of Social Media on the RG3 Heisman


Robert Griffin III is the consummate Heisman Trophy winner for the 21st Century. His style of play is transcendent, combining the rushing elements of an option quarterback but with the arm strength and accuracy of a first round NFL draft pick. He and preceding Heisman winner Cam Newton are indicative of a mold breaking for what constitutes a quarterback.

He spent nearly the season’s first month with more touchdowns than incompletions. He finished the season with better passing statistics than a Heisman finalist counterpart widely considered the most can’t-miss prospect in 30 years. He led a program that has long languished in the doldrums of football to the upper echelon. Indeed, RG3 earned the most coveted individual prize in the sport with historically significant play, but it’s not unrealistic to suggest his presence got an assist from a medium as revolutionary as Griffin’s quarterbacking style.

In the mid-1990s, when the internet (then capital I) began becoming the generation-defining entity that it is, the very core principle behind it was connecting the world in a manner never before conceivable.

We are still only scratching the surface of this potential, but in the last half-decade have made tremendous strides toward making the world just a little bit smaller. Through Facebook and Twitter and other mediums, we open dialogues that were previously impossible. Such dialogues can be as significant as the spread of a democratic uprising in Egypt, or as frivolous as what college football game fans should be watching. The latter turned eyes that may not have otherwise been on him, to the outstanding play of Griffin.

Heisman candidacies are about presence as much as they are performance. It’s the old “tree falls in the woods” cliche: if a player is invaluable to his team and registering historic statistics, does it matter if fans and media miss it?

Griffin’s Heisman presence began early — before the season, in fact. And it began online. The Baylor University athletic office and CBS Interactive developed, the official Heisman Trophy website of Griffin. Now, Heisman websites are nothing new, but Griffin’s was a step ahead in several subtle fashions. First was the easily remembered URL. Six characters, signifying both his team and a nickname that would find its way onto the tip of every college football pundits’ tongue.

Second, the page itself is aesthetically pleasing without overwhelming the content: all of which is accessible on the main page. Third is the logo. Something as simple as a graphic does wonders for a brand, whether it be Apple, Nike, McDonald’s. In that same vein, a Heisman candidacy is a brand name. RG3. The effective logo. Branded.

So he had the packaging, he had the play. All that was missing was the buzz.

RG3 was outstanding all throughout the season, but around Halloween was floating in Heisman limbo. His most inspired play came in November, though BU was never necessarily the marquee game. In fact, his candidacy may have truly began with what would have been the most ignored conference game on the Bears’ slate, had the internet not done an effective job publicizing what was happening.

BU trailed lowly Kansas on Nov. 12 by three touchdowns in a game Griffin himself acknowledged on tonight’s Heisman presentation. In the fourth quarter, RG3 hit a switch. While much of the nation, including Heisman voters, had their attention elsewhere Griffin led an 89-yard scoring drive. A few minutes later, he led the Bears 98 yards.

Suddenly, BU was down just a touchdown and forced a stop to recover the ball. A call to action came: turn on your regional FOX Sports, get on Baylor All-Access…log onto a streaming site (not that anyone condones that). Doesn’t matter how, just get to this game.

And all those eyeballs that in seasons past would have merely seen a box score saw Griffin lead BU to two more scores, sealing a bowl berth and the biggest comeback from a fourth quarter deficit in program history.

A week later with several primetime games on-going simultaneously, and all of them closely contested, RG3 could have faded into obscurity. After all, he as up against USC-Oregon, The Big Game and the perplexing end to Florida State-Virginia. Not easy finding a niche on such a crowded docket.

But Griffin’s “Heisman Moment” was experienced by the masses. Such outstanding plays as his Oklahoma-slaying touchdown pass lose significant when seen after the fact. The internet made sure his Moment was seen live by thousands more than may have witnessed it otherwise.

A transcendent movement helped a transcendent player. Only fitting.