02/07/13 — Wingate opens door for North Lenoir's Baird

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Wingate opens door for North Lenoir's Baird

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 7, 2013 1:47 PM

Courted heavily by Wingate University and strengthened by the positive feedback from the coaching staff, Caleb Baird just couldn't pass up the opportunity.

He's glad God opened the door for him.

Flanked by his parents, Sharon and Bruce, the North Lenoir senior place-kicker inked a national letter-of-intent to play football for the Bulldogs next fall. Other schools had contacted Baird and offered some options, but Wingate just seemed the right fit.

"I've had a lot of contact with the coach and they've treated me right the whole time," said Baird, a three-sport letterman who has earned all-conference recognition in soccer, football and baseball.

"They've been the most consistent with keeping me updated with what I need to do. It's a great school and honestly, my priority is to get an education. Playing football is the cherry on top."

A happy-go-lucky teen-ager with a great work ethic, Baird established himself on the gridiron this fall. He split the uprights on 12 occasions, including a school-record 47-yarder against Cleveland, which entered the game ranked among the top 10 Class 3-A teams in the state at that time.

Baird booted nine field goals that covered 30-plus yards and recorded a 96-percent touchback rate on kickoffs. He made 18 of 20 PATs and received the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference Specialist-of-the-Year award.

"If his foot was on it, it was going to be good," North Lenoir head coach Calvin Sutton said. "One of the things that draws you to Caleb is that he gets it done on and off the field. He's one of the best student-athletes at school and you gravitate to him because of his personality and smile.

"He works hard."

Baird credited his success to Sutton and his teammates, especially long snapper Jordan Shear and holder Alex Brownlee. The group showed faith and trust in Baird, whose confidence and self-esteem grew each time he helped put points on the board with his right foot.

Wingate finished 6-5 overall and 5-2 in the highly-competitive Division II South Atlantic Conference last season. The Bulldogs claimed the program's lone SAC championship in 2010.

Baird is ready to step onto the field and produce.

"I feel that God opens doors and closes doors, and he opened this one right in front of me," said Baird, who plans to major in athletic training and enter a post-graduate program. "I couldn't pass up an opportunity like this for a chance to just walk on somewhere."