By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Pity parties are rare occurrences in the household of Jackie and Robert Griffin II.
So when her only son, Washington Redskins starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III injured his knee for the second time during his NFL Rookie of the Year season and asked his mother to pray that it was not once again a potentially catastrophic anterior cruciate ligament tear, Jackie Griffin instead prayed for something else.
"I'm going to pray that if it is your ACL again, you're going to do what you did last time," Griffin said. "You know what to expect and we're going to get through this with God again. So when we did find out that it was his ACL, we all were there for the surgery. After the surgery was over, we cried like babies. After we finished crying, my husband and I said, 'That's it. Pity party over. Time to get back to work.' That is only because of God that we have the mentality that we have. We want things better for our kids."
Jackie Griffin relayed that story and others about her family, her faith and her strong conviction in providing a stable, loving platform for her children during her keynote speech during Friday's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Prayer Brunch at Fellowship Bible Church.
A full crowd turned out to listen to Jackie Griffin speak about how her own upbringing in a Christian home strongly influenced all aspects of her life. A native of New Orleans, Jackie Griffin said her faith in God's plan never wavered as she grew up. It was an outlook and background shared by her future husband, fellow New Orleans native Robert Griffin II
"We were poor, put it that way," Jackie Griffin said. "And I think that, too, was a blessing because it taught us how to survive. It taught us how to lean more on God and not what we had because we didn't have much. So we were joined at our homes with a foundation built on God."
Robert Griffin II joined the United States Army right out of high school at age 18, while Jackie Griffin initially joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves before eventually switching to the Army, as well.
A chance reunion with Robert Griffin II as she arrived for her first duty assignment in Fort Carson, Colo., soon bloomed into romance -- the Griffins have been married 27 years and have three children, including their youngest known from coast to coast as "RG3."
The expanding Griffin family lived the typical life of a career military family, moving from posting to posting as the children grew up before eventually settling for good in Copperas Cove, Texas.
Wherever duty called, though, the Griffins made sure that God was always close to their hearts.
"One thing that we found that was very, very comforting to our family is that we started off each day with prayer and that we ended each day with prayer," Jackie Griffin said. "And when we couldn't get to church, we had church at home."
Jackie Griffin's constant message to be true to his faith occasionally drew jokes from her youngest son, but that message sunk in from the woman RG3 from time to time called "The Preacher."
"Our kids grew up knowing there was nothing that the could not do or they could not accomplish because their faith was in God," Griffin said. "Not in their parents' ability, not in their own ability, but in what God can do for them. And that's why they have such an attitude of gratitude, first of all, because they know this has nothing to do with them. This is not about them. God gives us platforms to use for his kingdom, not for their enjoyment."
Robert Griffin III's talent as a quarterback was soon apparent, and he produced a sensational freshman season at Baylor University where he earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a freshman.
But early in his sophomore season, Robert Griffin III suffered his first real setback with his first ACL injury. He didn't sulk or feel sorry for himself -- Jackie Griffin made sure of that. She moved in with her son, and soon redecorated his apartment with countless inspirational messages.
"Everywhere he went, everywhere he looked, when he turned on the water to brush his teeth he saw, 'The Lord is your guide.'"
The Griffins also did their share to provide guidance for their three children.
"We never discouraged them," Griffin said. "We never forced them to do anything, in the sense of athletics. Now school, that's a different subject. With us, education is key after our spiritual foundation."
Jackie Griffin said the opportunity she and her husband now have to spread their message of faith has been a blessing, and she hoped sharing their experience as parents might benefit others.
"You have to be their kids' parent, not their friend," Jackie Griffin said. "And if they understand from the beginning that you are there to nurture and support them, but also to keep them on the straight and narrow and not try to be their friend, then that will go a whole lot further for you."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>