Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Wilson, Griffin Play out Ashe's Vision

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Wilson, Griffin Play out Ashe's Vision

Article excerpt

Twenty years ago, trailblazing tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe said that he knew there were athletes "perfectly capable of simultaneously excelling on the athletic and academic fields."

Perhaps the two most prominent athletes who embody that vision led their teams to the NFL playoffs this year: dynamic quarterbacks Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins. Aside from sharing the common bonds of being Black rookie quarterbacks in the NFL, they also finished 1 and 2, respectively, as male selections for the 2011 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sports Scholar Award as selected by Diverse: Issues In Higher Education magazine.

In almost every sense, Wilson and Griffin's careers would be more appropriately ranked 1 and 1A. You couldn't possibly go wrong, it seems, no matter which one you choose.

Consider their resumes while under consideration for the Ashe Award:

Griffin won the 2010 Walter Camp Award as the nation's best collegiate football player and owned or shared 30 Baylor University records. He also was a Big 12 Conference 400-meter hurdles champion, and graduated in three years with a degree in political science.

Wilson set an NCAA record at North Carolina State with 379 consecutive passes without an interception. He finished ranked No. 13 all-time in the Atlantic Coast Conference for passing yards (9,377) and No. 3 in touchdown passes (76). Wilson graduated in three years from N.C. State with a degree in communication.

Griffin, of course, would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, the most coveted individual award in college football, and would be selected No. 2 overall in the 2012 NFL draft behind Stanford's Andrew Luck--another scholar-athlete success story.

Wilson, who also played minor league baseball, decided to pursue a graduate degree in business and use his final year of NCAA football eligibility at the University of Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to a Big Ten title. He was selected in the third round (No. 75 overall) of the 2012 NFL draft.

In a nutshell, Griffin ended the regular season leading the majority of the quarterback-related statistics among rookies and guided his team's turnaround from 5-11 last season to 10-6. Wilson, who was not expected to be the starter, tied the rookie record for touchdown passes with 26. Griffin has a rookie record 102.4 passer rating, Wilson 100.0.

More importantly, the two have shredded the final vestiges of a stereotypical train of thought that has haunted the NFL for decades--that Blacks lacked the intangibles (translated, were not smart enough) to play quarterback. …

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