Bravado Looks Good On Baylor
By Mike Casazza
What does swagger look like? Everyone is talking about it, just about everyone claims to have it, and because of that, we know what swagger sounds like.
But is it an appearance? A facial expression? A strut?
Swagger is bold and brave, sometimes silly and self-endangering, but also the expression of a belief in oneself or in one’s team. It is Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk saying at the end of the 2012 season that he’ll will the Heisman Trophy at the end of the 2013 season.
“My linemen said, ‘Fine. We’re going to try to lead you there,’” Seastrunk said at the Big 12’s media days last month. “It’s a team effort.”
You know it when you hear it, but do you know it when you see it?
Swagger is Baylor’s new shiny, gold helmet. It’s the signature piece for the team’s arresting new uniforms, but it’s also the embodiment of a team that knows it’s armed with one of the country’s most terrifying offenses and knows it’ll need it to overcome what was one of the most forgettable defenses.
“To me, that's what it's all about,” coach Art Briles said of the helmet last month. “You’ve got style, you’ve got attitude, you’ve got effort. You have an image, and our image is we're going to play fast, we're going to be fearless and we're not going to worry about what other people think because we know who we are and we know what we're going to do.”
Seastrunk, of course, will have a helmet and he’ll put it to good use, not just because he’ll get the ball a ton, but because he’s concerned only with moving forward. He has neither time nor interest in taking back his prediction from December.
“Why should I?” he asked at the media day. “Why should I regret it? I said it. Y’all want me to take it back?”
Maybe it took Seastrunk some time to fit in among all the Bears. The Oregon transfer sat out the 2011 season and was mostly put off to the side in the first seven games last season, but he was almost unstoppable in the final six games. He ran for 103, 91, 185, 136, 178 and 138 yards and scored six times.
His proclamation was another step down the Baylor boulevard. Nobody was bothered by it. The Bears instead were inspired.
“It is a challenge,” offensive lineman Cyril Richardson said. “I know we play this game as a competition, but what’s wrong with making some personal challenges with yourself and accomplishing the challenges you set for yourself? Those are the best ones — to break that limit for yourself and to get to where you want to go. That’s what I like to see.”
Seastrunk’s vision knows no limitations, and that sometimes detracts from the point. He doesn’t mind that the Bears were picked fifth in the preseason conference poll. He vows they’ll use that to their advantage.
“Big 12 championship, national title, Heisman Trophy?” he said. “Why not?”
Dismiss the former. Focus on the latter. That’s what Baylor does.
That’s how the school in Waco, Texas, has gone from a perennial loser to, really and truly, one of the most riveting teams in America. The Bears have the hotshot coach, the uniforms the make recruits drool, the recruits who make the scouting services drool, the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback playing in the Nation’s Capital and soon one of the most picturesque stadiums the college game has to offer.
It wasn’t long ago when Baylor wasn’t supposed to have any of that. A little while later, someone finally wondered, “Why not?”
“I learned a long time ago, if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will,” Briles said.
Baylor has no shortage of players willing to line up to echo Seastrunk or to aim for something similarly special, and if they don’t do it, someone else will do it for them. The Bears will have their third starting quarterback in as many years, but Briles vows the offense will be the same for Bryce Petty as it was for Nick Florence last year and for Robert Griffin III before him.
“His expectations are to win every game and be the best quarterback in the United States of America,” Briles said.
Mind you, Petty hasn’t started a game yet, though you cold forgive him for thinking big and walking tall on campus, but he’s started off just fine in the eyes of his teammates. The Baylor bravado and the expectation to experience the same success the system has offered to those before him haven’t spoiled him.
“Most quarterbacks are a-holes,” safety Ahmad Dixon said. “They’re different. Those aren’t guys you want to deal with. They go through so much. It’s typical, though. They go through so much and deal with so much, but Bryce does a great job handling himself as a young man before he tries to be anything else.”
And that, more than anything else, is the visage of Baylor’s swagger.
“It’s just about learning be cocky on the field, but humble when it comes to learning the game,” Richardson said. “That’s what a lot of people really have to realize about football. You have people that can play, but you have to be able to master it, too.”