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There's No Quit In Baker

Posted Jul 18, 2012

Ryan Baker says he’s never even given it a thought.

“Giving up? Do I look like a guy that would give up?”

Ryan Baker is back for a fourth season with the Dolphins, and if the versatile defensive lineman isn’t among the team’s most high-profile players, he’s certainly near the top of the list when it comes to perseverance.

The former Purdue Boilermaker re-signed with the Dolphins in the spring after the team declined to extend him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent.

In essence, the Dolphins cut him loose this spring because an non-tendered restricted free agent becomes an unrestricted free agent free to negotiate and sign with any other team.

Baker says he visited a couple of teams during the time he was free to sign anywhere, but ultimately decided to come back to the Dolphins.

And why not? Baker has started something in South Florida and he wants to see it through.

His goals for the 2012 season are pretty simple: “Make a big impact on the team, make the (defensive line) rotation, really make an impact on the games as well as practice.”

He also could have added this one: Stay on the 53-man roster the entire season.

See, this is where Baker’s perseverance comes into play.

In each of his first three seasons with the Dolphins, Baker was released before being signed or re-signed to the active roster.

In 2011, for example, Baker made the initial 53-man roster, only to be released in late September to make room for running back Steve Slaton after he was claimed off waivers from Houston.

On Dec. 1, Baker was re-signed to the active roster, where he finished the regular season.

Back in 2010, Baker was among the final roster cuts, but was quickly signed to the practice squad and promoted to the active roster in late November.

After joining the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009, Baker was among the final cuts before being re-signed to the practice squad and moved to the active roster during the regular season.

Through all the ups and downs, Baker’s determination never diminished and the thought of quitting never entered his mind.

What kept him going?

“Your belief, faith and strong will, desire, love of the game,” he said. “You’ve just got to stay strong. You can’t let those things get to you. I’ve always felt life bumps make you stronger.”

In his first three NFL seasons, Baker appeared in 16 games and impressed his coaches with his versatility and his work ethic.

He’s also scored big points with fans by signing autograph after autograph after training camp practices open to the public.

“I like giving back,” Baker said. “When I was young, people gave to me. Now it’s my turn.”

Another way Baker gives back is through the foundation he started two years ago, the Ryan Baker Foundation.

Among the events the foundation puts together is an annual football camp for students from the fourth through the eighth grade.

“We’re trying to grow that foundation,” Baker said. “Our mission statement is not very specific. Everybody gives me a hard time. ‘It’s not very specific, what do you do?’ We help kids, we do whatever I really want to do. We’re going to help out some foster-care children that are aging out of the system this year, kids that are struggling. We’re going to help them out a little bit and grow the foundation to be bigger so we can help out more kids.”

For the record, the Ryan Baker Foundation mission statement, as per the foundation’s website, states: “Through our team and partnership with businesses, private sponsors and dedicated volunteers, The Ryan Baker Foundation, founded in 2010, exists to generate funds and create opportunities for the benefit of children and young adults, with an emphasis on health, education, sports and mental well being.”

A couple of weeks after this year’s football camp, scheduled for July 13, Baker will begin his fourth training camp with the Dolphins.

The dream lives on.

The objective is simple.

“Just keep developing, get out there and make some plays,” Baker said. “That’s the bottom line.”
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