For his entire career, Miami Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker has been an underdog. He's fought to make himself stand out in a crowd, fought through tough times and high pressure situations, and all of these battles have left him scarred.
Which is exactly what he wants.
"It’s pretty much I need that struggle." Baker said on Tuesday. "I don’t need anybody to take it for me. That pretty much was my whole college career. Coming in as a freshman, being behind some first rounders, Raekwon (McMillan) and all of those guys, they just sat me down and said, ‘You need all the pressure and all the hard times you go through. It’s going to pay off in the end.’ Honestly, it did and I kind of just stick to that. The hard times are going to come, but they’re not going to last.”
This statement was made in response to a question asked about the tweet that is currently pinned to Baker's Twitter account, which says: "Please don't fight my battles I need these scars."
Baker, who was drafted in the third round this year, recently signed his rookie contract, which will keep him in Miami for the next four years. But getting to this point was a challenge, one that he embraced and knows he came out stronger for it.
It was in the beginning, however, that Baker says was the hardest point of all.
“I would say my freshman year at Ohio State." he said. "That was the biggest hard time in my life. Coming in as a senior in high school and a star player, you think I’m going to come in and pretty much do whatever I want to do, be behind Darron Lee, Christopher Worley, Josh Perry, Raekwon (McMillan). They humble you fast. They try to bring you along, but they understand that it’s a growing process and they definitely helped me.”
Baker put together a decent stat line during his three college years, accumulating a total of 159 tackles, seven sacks and two interceptions, despite being behind the aforementioned players.
Now, after signing his four-year rookie contract with the Dolphins, Baker is getting the chance to once again work alongside is former Ohio State teammate, who according to reports, has already taken strong command of the defensive huddle and is instructing linebackers on where they need to line up.
That sort of thing is on the mental side of football, which Baker admits is something that dogged him somewhat during his freshman year in college.
“The physical part, I really never really questioned." he said. "It was more the mental part of, ‘I keep making the same petty mistake.’ And after a while, three mistakes turned into two, those two mistakes turned into one and next thing you know, you’re not making as many mistakes anymore. The mental part is what’s – with any athlete – is what’s the hard part. Once I got that under control, the physical part just took care of itself.”
Baker's intensity has come through in practice, to the point where veterans have had to tell him to calm down since pads have yet to fully come on. But in a way, knowing he's giving it everything he's got all the time is a good indicator of Baker's determination to be great. The scars he's gained throughout the years have not faded, and he's using them to drive him to greatness.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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