10/10/12 — Goldsboro's Baker glad he didn't give up football

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Goldsboro's Baker glad he didn't give up football

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 10, 2012 1:48 PM

One play crosses Joseph Baker's mind nearly every single time he courageously runs a route over the middle.

He routinely flashes back to the hit that nearly forced him to walk away from football. It caused him to re-evaluate his future and ultimately led him to discover a passion for the game and his untapped potential as a big-play receiver.

Baker suffered a concussion as a freshman last season in Goldsboro's 45-13 loss at Wallace-Rose Hill in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-AA state playoffs. During the offseason, the concussion was never far from Baker's memory and those lingering mental images were accompanied with hints of doubt.

Baker kept himself busy during the summer with AAU basketball and also contemplated switching from receiver to backup quarterback or even walking away from football.

Through prayer and soul searching, along with some persistent coaxing from Cougars' senior quarterback Julius Murphy, Baker chose to give football a second chance. Baker and Murphy worked relentlessly to develop chemistry in Goldsboro's new pass-happy offense.

"That concussion, it still sticks in my head," Baker said. "Over the summer I was trying to get my name out there with basketball and AAU. When the season started I realized we have a good coaching staff and that I could really be a factor if I gave it my all. I just prayed about it and gave it to God, and I made a commitment to football."

Baker and his fellow receivers refused to get discouraged despite struggling to generate continuity with Murphy through the first few weeks of the season. Cougars' head coach Eric Reid was outspoken about the necessary improvement of his receivers and his blatant honesty provided plenty of motivation.

The result was an improvement in route running by Goldsboro's receivers, greater concentration on catching the football and an increase in offensive balance. Baker progressed into a legitimate deep threat with his pillow-soft hands. The combination of speed and his 6-foot-1 frame has made him a difficult matchup for smaller cornerbacks.

"Joseph has been a pleasant surprise," Reid said. "He has put in the time and the work. In the passing league we gave him some basic routes at first, but even with the basic routes we could tell he had a lot of talent. He has really been reaping the benefits of his labor."

Baker is the area's leading receiver with 31 catches for 383 yards and three touchdowns. He has at least two catches in each of Goldsboro's seven games, and in three of those seven games Baker's longest reception was for 37 yards or more.

"I really want the ball," Baker said. "When the ball is in the air I feel like I have a real knack for the ball. It feels good to be able to contribute to the team. It is all in God's plan, wherever He feels like I fit that is where I want to be."