Florence impresses as a leader and follow-up
BY CHRIS FOSTER Los Angeles Times
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
12/26/12 at 4:01 AM
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.
There was no trip to New York for this year's award ceremony, but Florence has put up Griffin-like numbers. He passed for 4,121 yards and 31 touchdowns and ran for 531 yards and nine touchdowns.
Florence didn't get a Big 12 Conference title for the Bears - neither did Griffin - but he did engineer an upset of then-No. 1 Kansas State. The victory started a three-game winning streak that closed the season and put Baylor in the Holiday Bowl against No. 17 UCLA on Thursday.
"For me, I looked at it as 'Hey, I get the opportunity to play college football,' " said Florence. "I had waited a long time to get the job. A lot of people don't get the opportunity."
And even fewer have to replace a Heisman Trophy winner when they do get it. Not a week has passed this season without the topic coming up.
"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 in 2009 from South Garland (Texas) High School. 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."
"Nick is not following anybody," Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk said. "He's not RGIII, he's Nick Florence. What Nick does makes him great."
Baylor quarterback Nick Florence scores a touchdown past Kansas State linebacker Arthur Brown last month in Waco, Texas. LM OTERO / Associated Press