Updated: August 24, 2009 at 12:00 am
Football practice started like any other at Liberty until coach Jaron Cohen called the team together Monday to introduce the new transfer student.
Unfortunately for the Lancers, Denver Broncos rookie nose tackle Chris Baker exhausted his eligibility four years ago, playing for Cohen at Windsor High School in Connecticut.
Baker, 21, went to Penn State but after three years was dismissed from the team for his involvement in two fights. Baker, who had no criminal record previously, maintains he was misidentified in both incidents. He played his senior season at Hampton before signing with the Broncos.
Cohen remembers Baker as a good student from a strong family, active in church and student government, prompting him to write a character letter on Baker’s behalf during his legal troubles. He invited Baker to share his story with the Lancers.
“I just hope they can learn from my mistakes,” Baker said. ”I made some dumb decisions being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but at the same time it made me grow as a person. If there is anything I can do to help them to better themselves then I’m all for it.”
Baker talked to the Lancers about making good decisions and working hard. It’s the same message coaches and parents preach but it means a little more coming from Baker.
“It’s a little different hearing it from somebody like that,” senior wide receiver Wes McKenzie said. “He was right where we are a couple of years ago. It makes me want to get more serious.”
Senior running back Nick Bunney agreed.
“It means a lot,” he said. “He made some mistakes in his youth so it’s good to know that everybody makes mistakes. He’s been there, he’s been through college and he’s in the pros. It’s good to get insight from a guy like that.”