COPPERAS COVE -- The schedule makers probably didn't take this into consideration when TCU and Baylor were matched up on a Friday night to open the season. But tonight's game at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco could not be played on a more appropriate night.
The game will be highlighted by players from both teams who made their names on Friday nights at Copperas Cove High School.
Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin and TCU's Josh Boyce and brothers Logan and Tanner Brock were teammates at Cove, 11 miles west of Killeen. They grew up playing sports together, and when they got older spent many weekends swimming and hanging out at Copperas Cove coach Jack Welch's house.
Boyce and Griffin, especially, formed a tight bond after playing basketball together as kids.
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"We played church-league basketball since we were 7 or 8 years old," Griffin said. "Playing with him in high school was surreal because you don't usually get those opportunities."
As a redshirt freshman last season, Boyce led TCU with 646 receiving yards, something that didn't surprise Griffin, who tried to get Baylor coach Art Briles to recruit him to Baylor.
"I knew Josh was going to do big things," Griffin said. "I believed in him."
Welch, who has been coaching since 1980 and at Cove for the past 18 years, isn't surprised by the success of his former players. Sixteen were at major colleges last season, including 11 who played in bowl games.
Logan Brock graduated from Cove in 2008, a year ahead of Griffin. Tanner Brock and Boyce were a year behind Griffin and enrolled early at TCU after the 2008 season.
Welch calls those three years some of the strongest in Bulldawg history.
Cove reached the Class 4A Division I title game in 2006 and '07, when it was in District 16-4A with Brownwood, which was quarterbacked by Casey Pachall, who starts his first game at TCU tonight.
"Good player," Griffin recalled. "More athletic than people think he is. I wouldn't compare them completely, but he's kind of like an Aaron Rodgers-type quarterback. He can throw it around a little bit and can run, but people don't think he can run. I hear he's tatted up since."
Griffin said there is still a deep bond with his former teammates, but as tonight's game drew closer, communications ceased.
At TCU, coach Gary Patterson would not allow his players to be interviewed about their friend from Copperas Cove.
"We respect each other and once a Dawg, always a Dawg," Griffin said. "So we'll always have that family like atmosphere. I talked to Logan and Tanner this summer, but communication lines were cut off on Sunday. As competitors that's how it's going to be. When Tanner is growling in my face I'll understand. And when my line is growling in his face he'll understand."
All four Cove players weren't highly recruited, although Griffin was considered one of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country. But most major programs were more interested in giving Griffin a track scholarship (he set state records in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles in 2007).
One reason many big-time schools weren't interested in Griffin for football was because he was still learning to play quarterback, Welch said.
"He split time as a freshman," Welch said. "He was a great athlete, but he hadn't come into his own as a football player, and there's a big difference. Logan and Tanner, they were horses. They were thick, big, tough, mean type football horses."
With their dad a longtime coach at Cove, the Brock boys virtually lived at the field house and on the football field.
"Tanner has been a freak since the day he was born," dad Reb Brock said. "He was always trying to compete with Logan and people older than him."
Logan Brock competed with Griffin for the starting quarterback job during Griffin's sophomore season before he settled at tight end. "I'm glad he won the job at tight end because he was an amazing [quarterback]," Griffin joked. "He was a great player in general."
Once Logan moved to tight end, Welch said, Griffin had peace of mind, knowing he did not have to compete for his job.
"Robert was an athlete, but very unpolished as a quarterback," Welch said. "We didn't know if he could handle it his junior year. Robert could throw it a country mile, but you never were sure who he was going to throw it to. He might hit the scoreboard, the press box, he was just all over the place."
But with experience and under Briles' offensive scheme, Griffin has become a potential early-round NFL draft prospect. "He has not seen his best days, as good as he is right now," Welch said, adding that the other three are likely destined for pro careers as well.
"One thing I love is we're synonymous with TCU, and we're synonymous with Baylor," Welch said. "They're all good kids, I can tell you that. They're going to work, go to class, [and] be involved in community service."
"Hardly any of them were outstanding specimens coming out of Cove," Welch said. "But they've ended up being hosses in college."
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760