Florence leav­ing some im­pres­sive foot­prints

Quar­ter­back has been more than the guy who has fol­lowed Grif­fin.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Chris Fos­ter Los An­ge­les Times

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.

“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 has passed for 4,121 yards and 31 touch­downs, and run 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 thenNo. 1 Kansas State. The vic­tory started a three­game 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’s 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 High. Grif­fin, con­sid­ered one of the na­tion’s top high school quar­ter­backs the pre­vi­ous year at Cop­peras Cove, 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.”

Run­ning back Lache Seas­trunk, whose emer­gence this sea­son has taken some of the pres­sure off Florence, said, “Nick is not fol­low­ing any­body,” “He’s not RGIII, he’s Nick Florence. What Nick does makes him great.”

Briles added, “I never asked Nick to be Robert. I asked him to be Nick.”

Hol­i­DaY bowl

Bay­lor (7-5) vs. UCLA (9-4),

Thurs­day, 8:45 p.m., ESPN

Bay­lor’s Nick Florence has passed for 31 TDs this sea­son.

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