December 30, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor. Bryce Petty was the quarterback who then led the Bears to their first two Big 12 championships.

''It really means everything,'' Petty said.

The long wait before becoming the starter the past two seasons was well worth it for the Texas high school player who originally planned to go to Tennessee before a coaching change there. Petty then had to delay his enrollment at Baylor before redshirting in 2010 and two years as a backup - for Griffin during his Heisman-winning 2011 season and behind Nick Florence during a record-setting 2012 season.

Petty, 21-3 as a starter and with two championship rings, wraps up his Baylor career Thursday in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.

''It's been an awesome transition for just the whole team's mentality and how we approach things to where four years ago we were hoping that we would just be able to win and now we're upset if we don't,'' Petty said. '' So it's been an awesome ride.''

The Bears (11-1) are in their first Cotton Bowl in 34 years after finishing fifth in the final College Football Playoff rankings, the first team out of the four-team lineup. They have consecutive 11-win seasons for the first time in school history.

Petty's expected Heisman campaign got sidetracked when he cracked two small bones in his back after getting hit on the opening series of the season, then missed the second game. He also sustained a mild concussion during a game in November, but still has 3,305 yards passing with 26 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

''He's always been about the team first. It's never been a `me-me-me' thing, it's always been a `we-we-we' thing. He put everything else behind him,'' All-America left tackle Spencer Drango said. ''The Heisman talk was great. We would have liked to see him win. But, you know, it didn't happen for him. And you know, it never showed for us because he's always been about what can he do for the team.''

As a senior at Midlothian High in 2008, Petty verbally committed to Tennessee to play for coach Philip Fulmer. After Fulmer's departure soon after that, Petty never heard from new Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin.

That opened the door for Baylor, which had previously recruited him. The only catch was that the Bears didn't have another scholarship at that time, so after signing with the Bears in 2009 he spent a semester taking classes at the Midlothian campus of Navarro College before enrolling at Baylor in January 2010.

''That's the craziest part about it, because if I'd gone to Tennessee, you know, I wouldn't be here. Who knows where I'd be,'' said Petty, then referencing Tennessee being on its third coach since Fulmer. ''We've had Coach (Art) Briles here and unbelievable people and a program that just won back-to-back Big 12 championships. So you know, God's got a plan in it all, and that's the coolest part of that. So to kind of see where I was at 18 and where I am now at 23 is a cool deal.''

Teammates call Petty the hardest working player on the team. Sophomore receiver Corey Coleman described him as ''a really good dude, a good people person'' while talking about Petty staying hours after practice throwing to receivers and doing target drills.

Petty, who this month finished a masters in sports management, has completed 494 of 794 passes for 7,645 yards with 59 TDs and nine interceptions for the Bears. His 14 games with 300 yards passing broke Griffin's record, and they are tied with five 400-yard games.

''The whole journey, coming to where we are today, or where I am today, has been the best part of it,'' Petty said. ''I wouldn't change a thing. If I could go back and do it again, I'd do it the same way.''

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