Hampton DT Chris Baker Interview
(special from Draftzoo.com)
Anyone who has listened to NFLDraft101.com's Dan Wernery and Chris Maier on NFLDraft101's The Blitz podcast knows Chris Baker is one of our top sleepers in a weak defensive tackle class. Recently, our friend Hunter Ansley from DraftZoo.com had a chance to talk to Baker about the upcoming NFL Draft.
It’s hard not to notice a guy who stands at 6′02′ and 326 pounds. Guys like that command the room, even if they don’t always mean to. Chris Baker has been 6′00′ tall since he was 11 years old, so forgive him if he seems used to drawing attention. When you’re a walking mountain, people are bound to stop and stare.
Of course, like all swords, this one has two edges. Baker will be the first to tell you that his size has been a blessing throughout his athletic career. It’s what drew him to basketball as a child. It’s the trait that made possible a marriage between his love of football and the ability to turn a dream of playing professional into a sure-fire reality. But possessing the mass to play any position along the defensive line is also one hell of a magnifying glass.
After allegations of involvement in two fights during his time at Penn State, Baker found himself sitting squarely in the middle of one of those rare situations in life that can determine your path, your future; and the target on his back, like the rest of him, was a little bigger than most.
Baker could have quit. He could have accepted the public’s view of him as a “thug.” He could have curled up and accepted a fate handed to him by those unwilling to get to know the true Chris Baker. But giving up is a foreign concept to this young man.
Baker transferred to Hampton University, determined to succeed. His mind was made up, his path would not be one decided for him. It was the right move. After a junior season that included 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks people are paying attention to the facts on the field, not the accusations off of it. For this former Hampton Pirate and Penn State Nittany Lion life really is a like a grinding wheel that either polishes you up or grinds you down, depending on what you’re made of.
Chris Baker is made of the right stuff.
Draft Zoo: Is there a certain song you like to listen to before games or a ritual you go through to prepare yourself?
Chris Baker: There is no particular song that I listen to - on the way to the games I listen to gospel music. Then, before the games, I listen to my playlist on my ipod and it gets me in the zone.
DZ: What do you feel is your best measurable? What about your best skill that can’t be measured?
CB: I don’t know what my best measurable is, but I am good at stopping the run and getting after the QB. I am very versatile and can play any position on the D-line. The one attribute that is key to my success is my hunger to be the best on every play.
DZ: What do you feel is the most important characteristic for a successful defensive lineman to have?
CB: A defensive lineman has to have that killer instinct. He has to be tough all the time. He has to be able to find weaknesses in his opponent and take over the game.
DZ: Are you more comfortable inside at tackle/nose guard or outside at end?
CB: I’m comfortable playing both. If I was picked by a 4-3 team I would love to play nose tackle or play the 3 technique. If I am picked by a 3-4 team, I can play the nose or DE. I’m comfortable at any position - inside or out.
DZ: What is your best memory of playing college football?
CB: My freshman year at Penn State we had our first “white out” against Ohio State. The game was on my birthday, October 8th. I had never seen people get that loud. The stadium was shaking. It was a great game, especially with the crowd going crazy. We watched film the next day and the camera was shaking. That’s how loud it got.
DZ: Did you notice a big difference in competition from Penn State to Hampton? Do you think that transition will help you transition to the NFL?
CB: There is a difference in competition, but there are great players on both levels. Hampton is a lot different than Penn State but the competition was still very good. I played well at both levels. The transition to the NFL will be hard but I will adjust like always and perform to the best of my ability.
DZ: How important do you think it is to take advantage of second chances?
CB: Very important. I’m a perfect example of someone who took advantage of their second chance. Everything happens for a reason. God gave me a second chance at Hampton so I’m just taking advantage of every moment. I could have been mad about everything that happened at Penn State and done nothing with my life. I used my situation for motivation and overcame everything with the second chance that I was given. I can’t wait to share my story with younger players who are looking for advice.
DZ: When did you first know that you wanted to play football professionally?
CB: When I got to Penn State and started playing well I knew I had a chance to be a professional football player. As a kid, I thought I was going to play in the NBA. I played basketball my whole life. I wanted to play football
DZ: Is there a specific team you would like to play for? Are there any teams that are showing a lot of interest in you?
CB: I would love to play for any team in the NFL. Growing up I was a big Cowboys fan so it would be a dream come true to play for the Cowboys. It’s also a dream come true to play for any team in the NFL. There are a lot of teams showing interest. A lot of teams have been in contact with my agent. I just came back from a visit with Tampa Bay; the Patriots are coming to Connecticut to give me a private work out. The Jets, Panthers, Redskins, Miami, Tampa, Green bay, Broncos, Ravens, and Patriots are all teams that have been showing interest. There are probably more teams that I’m not aware of at this time.
DZ: What’s the first thing you’ll do after signing an NFL contract?
CB: I’m going to give thanks to God first. Then, I will buy my dream car - an Escalade and, of course, take care of my parents.
DZ: Is there a pro player you like to watch or that you model your game after?
CB: I would like to say I model my game after Warren Sapp. I loved the way he played the game. He got after the QB and he stuffed the run just as well. He was also a passionate player that loved the game. He reminds me of myself.
DZ: What makes you an asset to a pro team?
CB: I can play multiple positions in any defense. I’m big, strong, fast and I play with passion. I’m a good leader and a good person. Whatever team that drafts me will get not only a great player, but a great person as well.Hunter Ansley is Senior Editor at DraftZoo.com and a contributor to NFLDraft101.com. He can be reached with feedback and questions at email@example.com Check out his seven round mock draft posted 4/5/09.