My evening with Drew Baker was quite the interesting event. We decided that we would meet up at our favorite restaurant Applebee’s, a place he used to work at prior, in order to have an interview. We met around 7, ordered our drinks, and I started my questions.
I went to high school with Drew and he played for our school’s football team. He told me he was a middle linebacker for Lake Mary high school, and that he played for only his freshman year. I asked if he quit due to him disliking the sport, or if he had his own reasons.
“I had to stop due to an injury where I was speared during practice,” he explained, “I was walking back into my team formation then I suddenly gained consciousness in an ambulance. Turns out I got speared in the back, uh spearing is when someone rams their head into you, and it hit me in the spine. It was so hard I blacked out. My thoracic vertebrae 11 and 12 were shattered and I had to have surgery.”
When I asked him what he did after that, considering he would be unable to play, his answer surprised me. “My dad talked me back into it,” Drew began, “He was really supportive and encouraging of my recovery and getting back out there. He told me that ‘you should always finish what you start’, and to me that is one of the best pieces of advice he has given me, I always hold it close to my morals”. I questioned Drew if he felt his father was pushing him, to which he explained “I was pushing myself, my two uncles, my father and my own self all played football. There was a tradition that the ‘Baker boys’ played football in this family, and I just love the sport so I would continue to play no matter what.”
Drew played for one year, so of course I asked what really stopped him. “It was a second injury. I got spear headed again in the same location during an actual game and that took me out of commission for certain. There wasn’t any recovering back to football after that blow.” I asked if that was a let down to him and his family, and he responded with “well of course, but they still supported me in what I do.”
“When you were injured, how well were you treated?” I questioned Drew. “It was awful, everyone ignores you. That’s the reality of it though, you are only worth something when you can preform. Some kids only want to be your friend when you are on the team so they can get credibility by knowing you, but when I was benched nobody acknowledged me. It really sucked, but I took it with a grain of salt. It’s a shame how teens grow up only wanting popularity, so that’s why I was humble about myself. I never bragged about playing football, I didn’t want popularity I just wanted to play the sport I loved. I also didn’t want to brag in front of people that didn’t make the cut, I was just kinda playing you know?”
I asked what he felt about football players being glamorized and put on a pedestal, and how he felt about that: “it’s very unfortunate. It’s way to glamorized, people only want to be your friend for the title, and people that really love the game can go on to be successful. Some kids go to college on that, but you gotta remember that it’s all just one big competition, and think of how crushing would it be if you followed your dream, got super close, and some kid that was just ‘better’ than you took it all away?”
Drew told me that after his time playing football was up, he moved onto the hobby of juggling. “A friend of mine [Brent] from football came with me and my family on vacation once after I invited him. He brought a duffel bag of juggling equipment and asked if I wanted to learn. Six months later I was preforming on big ticket venues like Universal, Disney, and the boardwalk. Juggling was definitely a really fun and engaging hobby I picked up afterwards.”
With all those questions being said, our dinner finally arrived. We decided that the meal sounded better than more questions. I asked what his final words on the matter was and he just told me “thanks for having me and it was a pleasure being here” before we chowed down.