Bob Stoops and his staff knew that they had something special in running back Quentin Griffin. I’m not sure they thought he’d ever be mentioned in the same breath as legendary Heisman winner Billy Sims though. “The first time I saw him when he visited, I thought, ‘Are you sure we want to recruit this guy?’ ” said Merv Johnson, a longtime assistant coach under Barry Switzer and former director of football operations for Stoops.
Not only did Oklahoma recruit him, they snatched him away from Texas A&M in Stoops’ first freshman class. Seven games into the 1999 season Griffin’s redshirt was burned and the Legend of “Q” was born. Even before fans got their first glimpse of Oklahoma’s dynamically undersized running back, he was amazing teammates as a member of the scout team in practices.
“I was blocking a guy in practice one day, and Quentin made a cut and went between me and the defensive guy and underneath our arms. And he never touched me.” – Former Oklahoma Tight End Trent Smith
“He’s shifty,” former Oklahoma offensive lineman Mike Skinner once said. “He does things that surprise me, and I watch him every day. You think he’ll be almost on the ground, and somehow he’ll put a hand down and be off.”
Griffin ran for 285 yards and scored 4 touchdowns (one of them receiving) during his four games played in 1999. His breakout moment came the following year when he scored a school record six touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 63-14 route of Texas. He capped that season by scoring the only offensive touchdown in OU’s 13-2 national championship victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
By the time his senior season came around Oklahoma’s 5-7/195 shifty running back had become unstoppable. A master at the draw play and an underrated threat to catch the ball out of the backfield, Griffin had become the focal point of Oklahoma’s offense in 2002, leading the Sooners to their first ever Rose Bowl appearance. Not bad for a kid who didn’t start his senior year of high school.
“It’s been great, coming from being on the ‘B’ team in high school to being able to play in the Rose Bowl,” Griffin said before OU thumped Washington State 34-14 in the “Granddaddy of’em all”. “That’s an awesome experience.”
Fittingly Griffin scored the final touchdown of the final game of his collegiate career but it’s what he did after that moment that still has people talking about a decade and a half later.
Going into the Rose Bowl game Griffin had already rushed for 1,740 yards on the season. His 144 yards against the Cougars put him just twelve yards shy of Billy Sims single season rushing record of 1,896 yards.
With 1:15 left in the game, Oklahoma took over at the Washington State 44-yard line. Bob Stoops wanted Griffin to go back in and break the record but instead it was the backup, Renaldo Works, who closed the game out.
“I didn’t think it was a good idea,” Griffin said about going back in. “(The record) would have been nice, but I’d rather keep my health, so I decided to stay off.”
“Special young man,” Stoops said afterwords. “I couldn’t talk him into going back in. He said, ‘Coach, my shoulder’s sore.’ He wanted to see some other guys play.”
Griffin finished up at Oklahoma with 3,938 career rushing yards which was the fourth-best in OU history.