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Robert Griffin III
Quarterback, Washington Redskins
It was clear from the start of the 2012 football season that it would be the Year of RGIII.
While at Texas' Copperas Cove High School, he was the best 400-meter hurdler in the country, so fans knew he was fast. In his final season at Baylor University -- from which he graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science, having made the dean's list twice -- he set records for passing yards and passing efficiency, so it was clear he could throw.
He also won the Heisman Trophy in 2011. And while the NFL had seen "dual threat" quarterbacks -- who are dangerous whether passing the ball or running it -- it never had seen a package quite like RGIII. Almost single-handedly, the first-round draft pick transformed the Redskins from an East Coast punching bag into a legitimate contender (eventually derailed by Griffin's knee injury during a playoff loss in January).
His megawatt smile has made the 23-year-old an endorsement magnet: He has deals with Gatorade, Adidas, EA Sports and Nissan, among others, worth a combined $4 million to $6 million annually, on top of his four-year, $21 million contract. Griffin's No. 10 jersey set a single-season sales record. Basically, he is one of the most popular players in the country's most popular sport.
"Robert's intelligence, creativity and charisma create a dynamic personality that fans have fallen in love with, and his corporate partners value tremendously," says Mark Heligman, his agent at CAA. And last October, while on the campaign trail, President Obama taped an intro for a Redskins game in which he said, "It's tough to unite this city around anything -- believe me, I know … but RGIII makes it look easy."
-- Marc Bernardin