The 10 Days with No. 10 series continues on Redskins Nation and Redskins.com, with Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III discussing his inspired play and that of fellow rookie Alfred Morris down the stretch of the season.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris each had historically significant rookie seasons that cast them into the upper-echelons of the league at their positions.
Griffin III entered the NFL amidst great fanfare. He was coming off of a sensational Heisman season at Baylor University and was arguably the best player in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Morris was an unheralded prospect out of Florida Atlantic University, and was passed over by all 32 teams until being selected 173rd overall in the sixth round.
In a wide-open training camp battle at running back, Griffin III recalls that Morris was the only back that seized his opportunity and rumbled with it.
"I knew it after the second preseason game when we played Chicago," Griffin III told Larry Michael of Redskins Nation. "The Bears have some formidable linebackers…they've got Lance Briggs. Lance Briggs was one of [Redskins offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan's favorite linebackers because he felt like he's the man. He's a man's man. No one can punk Lance Briggs.
"So we hand the ball off to Alfred [Morris] and he goes out there and runs over Lance Briggs. He runs him over, fixes his helmet, and keeps running. I knew for sure that 'OK, if this guy gets a shot, he's going to be something special.'"
Morris had only 34 yards on 10 carries in that game, but entered the all-important third preseason game as the favorite to win the starting job.
Against the Indianapolis Colts in a nationally televised preseason game, Morris rumbled for 107 yards on 14 carries, averaging a whopping 7.6 yards per carry with a touchdown.
From then on, there was little doubt who would be joining Robert Griffin III in the backfield.
"There's no secret, everyone knows we're going to run the ball, that's what Mike Shanahan does. He runs the football," Griffin III said. "You're going to get your fair share of carries and Alfred made the most of those carries.
"Hopefully he can continue to do it for an extended period of time."
Morris finished the season with a franchise record 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground.
He gained 820 during the team's seven-game win streak to the playoffs, tallying four 100 yard games and a 200-yard effort in the season finale.
Robert Griffin III explained that neither he nor Alfred Morris hit the proverbial 'rookie wall,' because both knew the consequences of one more loss.
"Other coaches around the league had been calling Kyle [Shanahan] and [quarterbacks coach] Matt LaFleur and telling them that their rookies were starting to hit the wall a little bit or around Week 10 or 11," Griffin III said. "I said 'Well we're not going to hit the wall'. We couldn't afford to hit the rookie wall because we had that stretch where we needed to win, where everything was on the line.
"There was no complacency. We weren't 10-2, we were sitting there at .500 basically trying to get into the playoffs. I think that's the approach me and Alfred both took, just that our team needs us, we can't afford to have that self-pity and feel like we hit the rookie wall."
This was one of many instances in which Griffin III exuded leadership in his rookie season. Even as a rookie, his teammates voted him a team captain and counted on him to play while inexperienced and injured.
"You play because your team needs you to play. You play because you have a love for the game," he said. "I love to prepare, I love to go out and be successful. If I don't feel like I put my team in the best position to win, then I shouldn't be playing.
"I think everybody has a competitive spirit and everyone should feel that way, but don't have a false sense of that. Actually put in the work and I did that, the rest of the team did that, and the two biggest rookies for us—myself and Alfred—we did that from the get-go."