When Baylor plays Kansas State in the final regular season game, Troy Baker plans to jog out of the tunnel with his teammates at McLane Stadium.
That won’t be the same as playing for the fifth-year senior offensive tackle. But it will mean something for him to jog instead of walk before the Dec. 6 game.
“It’s my last game and it’s senior day,” Baker said. “I’m going to have to convince the doctors to let me get a little jog out of the tunnel instead of a walk because that’s not happening. I’m going to jog.”
Baker’s football career ended when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the second half of Baylor’s 41-27 loss to West Virginia on Oct. 18 in Morgantown.
The former Connally High School star was enjoying a tremendous senior year as Baylor’s starting right tackle before he went down with the injury. It was the same knee in which he tore his ACL during spring drills in 2013.
“I felt the pop and knew immediately,” Baker said. “They didn’t even have to come out there because I knew what happened. Once you know what that feels like, you never forget it.”
An MRI showed that Baker suffered a partially torn ACL, and he hopes that it can heal through rehabilitation instead of surgery. But the 6-7, 305-pound Baker said there is no chance that he will be ready to play in a bowl game and isn’t planning on pursuing an NFL career.
“I have to take care of myself,” Baker said. “I’ve already had eight surgeries. I had four in junior high after a compound fracture in my leg. I’ve had two knee surgeries and also my back, and I tore a (finger) tendon on our first drive against SMU.”
An academic all-Big 12 honoree, Baker will be well prepared for life after football. He received his undergraduate degree in finance in December 2012 and expects to finish his MBA from Baylor in December 2015.
Baker said he doesn’t know yet what he wants to do following graduation, but he hasn’t ruled out coaching. After he went down against West Virginia, he got an opportunity to watch the game against Kansas with the Baylor coaches in the press box.
“The thing about the box that is really cool is it’s so easy to see the field and everything that’s going on,” Baker said. “It’s totally different from when you’re either on the sideline or on the field playing. You can only see so much, but up in the box you can see everything.”
Baker’s most productive season was in 2012 as a third-year sophomore when he started all 13 games at right tackle. Following his knee injury in the spring of 2013, he came off the bench for most of last season before starting late in the year. Baker was back in the lineup to help the Bears beat Texas, 30-10, to clinch their first Big 12 championship.
Despite his injuries, he’s enjoyed helping Baylor build its football program. When he signed his financial aid contract in the fall of 2009, he took a chance on a program that hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1994.
This season’s bowl game will be the fifth straight under coach Art Briles, and Baker has been with the program for all of them.
“It’s been an unbelievable ride,” Baker said. “We’ve gone to bowl games every year to a Heisman to a Big 12 championship to playing in the Fiesta Bowl which was pretty darn cool. Five years ago, I signed a financial aid agreement at Connally and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Baylor has given me more than I ever thought it would.”
Though Baker was watching from the sidelines, he was thrilled to see the Bears knock off Oklahoma, 48-14, last weekend for their first win ever in Norman. He can’t wait to see how his teammates perform the rest of the season as they try to repeat as Big 12 champions and earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff.
“People wrote us off after West Virginia,” Baker said. “What’s the best way to get back into it? We play in Norman and win by 34 points. I’m very excited, and the best part is we’re not done. They’ve got everything right in front of them.”
BEAR FACTS: Baylor receiver Corey Coleman was named Big 12 offensive player of the week while kicker Chris Callahan was special teams player of the week. In Baylor’s win over Oklahoma, Coleman caught a career-high 15 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown and also ran for a 5-yard score. Callahan hit two field goals and six straight extra points.