Before the 10th-ranked Bears beat SMU 45-0 in their first game at McLane Stadium on Sunday night, a 9½-foot bronze statue of Robert Griffin III was unveiled.
The statue of Baylor's only Heisman Trophy winner is in a plaza between the stadium and the Brazos River, where some fans arrived by boat for the game -- and others dived in for relief from temperatures in the mid-90s. That plaza is at the end of a 775-foot pedestrian bridge over the water that many fans walk over to get to the stadium.
"If you go to Washington D.C., before you go watch the Redskins and Robert, you go see Mr. Lincoln. That's a great statue. If you're going to go to New York City, go see the Statue of Liberty," Ken Starr, the school's president, said during a dedication ceremony. "When you come to Waco, you're going to see the statue of Judge Baylor, Coach (Grant) Teaff and Robert Griffin III."
Griffin won the Heisman Trophy in 2011, the same season Baylor won 10 games for the first time since its outright 1980 Southwest Conference title. RG3 played his home games in Floyd Casey Stadium, about 4½ miles from campus, where the Bears were for 64 seasons through last year.
It was during Griffin's last season at Baylor before being the second overall pick in the NFL draft that the idea of a new campus stadium really took off and donations started pouring in to make that a reality. The Bears hadn't played on the Waco campus since 1935 before Sunday night's game against SMU.
"No, it wasn't just me. If you look at the guys who came in with me, the guys who were there before we got here. They are all part of it, from Grant Teaff to coach (Art) Briles," Griffin said, before starting to name a long list of his Bears teammates. "They know we couldn't have done it without each other."
Sporting a dark green coat representing a primary Baylor color, the Washington Redskins quarterback said he never dreamed of having a statue.
"It's incredible. People are excited about football. I don't know if we could have said that many years ago when Coach Briles and myself and our first class got here," Griffin said. "Now we have a lot of guys in the NFL. We've got a stadium on campus and the future is very bright. But this is only the beginning. There's much more to come."
Fans chanted "RG III! RG III!" during the statue ceremony more than three hours before kickoff. There were more of those chants after he was introduced on the field to give the opening prayer, in which at one point he exclaimed "Wow!"
Griffin and Starr were at midfield for the coin toss by former President George W. Bush, who has a ranch in nearby Crawford and lives primarily in Dallas, where his presidential library is on the SMU campus.
Starr got on campus after an 8:30 a.m. church service, and quickly took a stroll across the long pedestrian bridge.
"It's beyond our expectations," Starr said.
Neal Willard, a 1975 Baylor graduate and longtime season-ticket holder with his wife, Cheri, completely agreed after crossing the bridge toward the $266 million stadium.
"It's everything they said it was going to be, and even better," Willard said. "Being I was at the school 30 years ago, we would hang out at the river, but it was nothing like this. I think they've outdone themselves."