Journey To The NFL: Bobby Baker

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Via Last Word On Pro Football, by Chris Bolden

The Atlanta Falcons held their annual “Local Pro Day” a few weeks ago. This is an event the Falcons host for players from local schools to come showcase their skills. Among the many participants at the pro day, one particular player stood out: Georgia State safety Bobby Baker.

Baker said it “wasn’t necessarily a formal meeting, but I spoke with a ton of coaches; mostly defensive.” He also added that he approached Dan Quinn after the workouts and thanked him for the opportunity to showcase himself.

“(Quinn) was happy that I stayed after and came to talk to him,” said Baker. “He said good things about the way I move and my size.” The local pro day wasn’t the only time the Falcons showed interest in Bobby Baker either.

The Falcons, along with the Browns, Dolphins, Texans, Broncos, Colts, and Jaguars, attended Georgia State’s pro day as well. Baker briefly spoke with the Falcons scouts before and after the pro day but, again, it was nothing formal.

Journey to the NFL: Bobby Baker

Humble Beginnings

The journey to the NFL is a difficult one on its own. Few players, however, have had to take the journey that Bobby Baker has taken. Baker started out as a receiver in high school, but after realizing just how dependent the position was, made the transition to safety. “(As a receiver) if the coach doesn’t call a pass play or, if the quarterback doesn’t throw it to you, you can’t make a play. I chose to play safety to have the ability to make my own plays,” said Baker.

Baker didn’t have many opportunities out of high school and decided to begin his college career at Glenndale Community College. Baker started every game his freshman year at Glenndale before transferring to L.A. Pierce.

There, Baker started every game. During his time as a Brahma, he discovered the importance of self-promotion. “It’s not necessarily how good you are, but how you get yourself out,” said Baker. “You can be the greatest player on Earth, but no one will know if they don’t know about you.”

So he made sure teams knew who he was. “I created social media accounts to reach out to teams and coaches,” he said. “I sent out over 100 messages to over 100 coaches with my height, weight, speed, stats and highlights, and my GPA.” UAB was one of the universities that showed great interest in Baker.

Baker was immediately the starting safety for the Blazers and showed dominance at the position. In week two, against Dak Prescott’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, he had a career high 14 tackles. Baker’s success continued into week three against Alabama A&M with a big interception in the red zone. Later in the game, however, Bobby Baker tore his ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.

“At first, it was terrifying,” said Baker. “I had never been through a major injury and this seemed so severe. I was the type of player who is always moving around and then, immediately, you have to sit down. You have to ask for help to get in and out of the house or in and out of the car. It was frustrating.”

At the end of the 2014 season, as most can remember, UAB shut down their football program. Now, not only did Bobby Baker have to overcome his knee injury, he would have to find a new program to continue his journey to the NFL.

Rebuild, Reclaim

“The injury sparked my desire for learning,” said Baker. “I started reading books and articles and learning about different religions and focusing on business.” Baker understood just how quickly football could be taken from him with an injury like this and how it was never promised.

Once Baker was healed up and ready to begin training again, he realized it was all mental. He was determined to come back better and learn to play in a way that didn’t require as much movement.

“I started studying film from a coaches perspective,” said Baker. “I started hanging out with coaches during their meetings and watching film. You can ask anyone at Georgia State who watches the most film and they’ll tell you it’s me. I watch more than the coaches I think. I just watch film for fun.”

While a lot of teams were hesitant to take a chance on Baker because of his knee injury, three teams showed interest: Western Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Georgia State. After visiting each school, Baker chose to transfer to Georgia State because of the family atmosphere he felt among the coaches and players.

Georgia State was also his top choice because of the wide range of career opportunities that Atlanta has to offer.

“I wouldn’t call it a fallback,” Baker said. “I’m always looking at business opportunities and I enjoy brand development. Even if football works out, I’ll still do business.”

Bobby Baker’s new and improved approach to the safety position and newfound love for studying film brought tremendous success on the field. Baker seemed to know how each play was unfolding before it happened and was able to put himself in a position to make a play on, seemingly, every play.

Baker finished his time as a Georgia State Panther with 158 tackles, three interceptions, eight pass deflections, one forced fumble, and five fumble recoveries. Watching highlights, it seems like wherever the ball is, that’s where Bobby Baker is. The play action doesn’t fool him, the option doesn’t fool him. With a Troy Polamalu-like instinct, on top of his high level of preparation, Baker seems to know exactly what’s coming.

Preparing For The Draft

Coming in to the NFL Draft has been a struggle for Bobby Baker. Due to his transfers, his graduation date was pushed back two semesters. Since he will become the first person in his family to finish college, getting his degree is very important for Baker.

Due to his late graduation, however, Baker has been limited to training under the constraints of classes.

“Most guys got ten to 15 weeks to train for their pro days and boost their forty (yard dash) times,” said Baker. “I had about four weeks to train for my pro day and, due to my class schedule, I’ve basically been training in my backyard.”

At Georgia State’s pro day, Baker ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.75 seconds. While it isn’t all that impressive, his highlights are. “Just look at the film,” said Baker. “My 40 isn’t that fast but I have agility, I’m quick and have good movement. I’m very rangy and can get from one sideline to the other quick. Plenty of guys can run between a 4.3 and a 4.5 and not do well on the football field.”

While the transfers may have hurt him, as far as training goes, they have also been a blessing for the young safety. Baker has spent time under four different defenses with four different coaches and has been a starter with all four.

“I have a great grasp of every defense I’ve been in,” said Baker. “Being a safety is like being the quarterback of the defense.”

That’s exactly what Baker looks like on the field. The way he can see the entire field and see how plays and routes unfold is similar to that of a quarterback.

What NFL Teams Will Get From Bobby Baker

Baker has great height for his position at just under 6’3″ but his weight is sitting at around 202 pounds. For a player who likes to step up into the box a lot, NFL teams will want that weight to increase. Once Baker gets into an NFL facility, putting on some weight shouldn’t be an issue.

Baker studies NFL players to emulate their style as well. “I’m not a thief but I like to ‘steal’ techniques from other players,” said Baker. “I feel like I cover similar to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. We have similar bodies and move similarly. I hit like Landon Collins and my ball skills are like Tyrann Mathieu. My mindset is like Ed Reed, though. That dude is a genius, I’ve been watching him since I was a kid.”

Baker is a highly motivated player as well.

“My family motivates me,” he said. “My little brothers, my sister, my mom, and my dad look up to me and that motivates me to push harder for them. Younger guys who look up to me motivate me as well, I like to set a good example; be a good role model.”

“I’m a total asset,” Baker said on what he brings to an NFL team. “Somebody who is not going to embarrass the program or the NFL. I’ve been to so many different places and seen so much and matured a lot. I don’t do wild stuff, I’m not into that. I am real laid back. I just like to chill, read, and even do some photography. I’m a totally different guy on the field, though. I’m an animal on the field, like Brian Dawkins.”

There’s no doubt that Bobby Baker has the skills and mindset to be a productive safety in the NFL. With the Falcons showing interest in him, as well as Quinn complementing his size and movement, there’s a chance he could be drafted by Atlanta in a later round. At the very least, Baker should be picked up as an undrafted free agent. Baker would be a great compliment to Keanu Neal in Atlanta’s secondary and is a great fit for Dan Quinn’s style of defense.

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