After growing up in Georgia, Kendall Baker will stay in the Peach State a few more years.
Baker, a lineman from Marist, didn‚Äôt necessarily grow up a Bulldog fan, though. In fact, he said he bounced back and forth between rivals Georgia and Florida. However, after a few years of deliberation he came to the conclusion Athens was the only place for him to attend school. He‚Äôs got high hopes for his future at Georgia.
‚ÄúWhat can‚Äôt I do here at Georgia that I can at some other school or some other part of town,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúI can make All-American here, and I want to represent my hometown.‚Äù
An Atlanta native, Baker has spent plenty of time watching Georgia play. While Athens isn‚Äôt necessarily his hometown, he plans to make it just that throughout the process of spending his college career there.
‚ÄúAthens is a very nice town,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúIt has some history behind it, and I just want to figure out the rest of the history behind it.‚Äù
Learn history, help make history; what‚Äôs the difference, really? Baker wouldn‚Äôt mind doing a little of both.
Anyone who followed Georgia football in 2013 knows there‚Äôs opportunity for a freshman to earn immediate playing time; especially on defense. Everyone will start on equal playing ground with Georgia‚Äôs recent addition of Jeremy Pruitt at defensive coordinator.
While the opportunity for playing time is clearly there, Baker won‚Äôt take it for granted.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve got to keep a positive attitude,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúIf I go in with the right attitude and the right mindset, I have a chance to do some very good things as a freshman. I‚Äôve got to go in there and work hard, because it‚Äôs going to be a lot of hard work.‚Äù
Baker is all about winning the psychological battles.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve just got to keep my mind right and I‚Äôll be fine,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúHopefully I‚Äôll go in there and get me a spot.‚Äù
Regardless of whether it‚Äôs a starting position or not, Baker was attracted by the fact he will most definitely have a spot at Georgia, no matter what the role entails. He just wanted to go to a place where he could feel at home, even if it‚Äôs an hour away from his.
‚ÄúThey (coaches) all basically said the same thing,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúYour family is here. The football team treats you as a family, so you‚Äôll have brothers here around you all the time.‚Äù
Some of those teammates will be former rivals of Baker‚Äôs. The 26th-ranked defensive end in the nation spent the past few years facing off against Tucker‚Äôs Detric Dukes and Dominick Sanders, but will eventually have to set differences aside as they each enroll at Georgia.
It won‚Äôt be hard for Baker.
‚ÄúOnce we‚Äôre in the same uniform it‚Äôs all good,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúWhen you‚Äôre in the opposite uniform, they‚Äôre like enemies for the time being, but me and Detric were cool, so it‚Äôs all good.‚Äù
Baker and Dukes have already teamed up in offseason showcases such as the Rising Senior Bowl, and Baker says he‚Äôs excited for the chance to play alongside his former opponent.
Baker‚Äôs family too was excited when he made the call to commit to Georgia. If his family had to make the decision, Baker says they would have made the same one he did.
‚ÄúThey were pretty excited,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúThey were hands off about it. They were trying to put little things in my ear about it, but didn‚Äôt force me to go. They did like the decision for me to go to Georgia.‚Äù
In the back of his mind, Baker couldn‚Äôt fathom the thought of playing in another state.
‚ÄúI was thinking I needed to stay home and represent the home state,‚Äù Baker said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve been here all my life, so why not represent the state of Georgia for another four years of my life?‚Äù
For the time being, however, Baker is focused solely on earning his playing time at Georgia. He‚Äôs all business.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of new opportunity in there, so why make excuses and not do it, you know?‚Äù Baker said.