Bad luck struck just weeks before his senior season at Kentucky.
“It was a screen play like any other screen,” wide receiver Dorian Baker said. “It caved in I guess. Just bad luck.”
A bad break ended Baker’s season before it even started. Plagued by a hamstring injury in 2016, he closed the season strong with two game-changing touchdowns in the final two games of the season. Poised to take his career to new heights in 2017, his only goal in the preseason was “stay healthy,” one he failed to achieve. After Baker broke his ankle in the final scrimmage of the preseason, he asked himself, why me?
“Everybody goes through that stage because it’s an unbelievable feeling. It was my senior year. I’d been preparing my whole college career for this honestly. For that to be just taken away in the matter of a play, it was unbelievable for me.”
Frustration lingered, but it did not last.
“At the same time, I had to thank God for the position I’m in. I’ve got an extra year to play football, be with the team and mature mentally. I’m grateful for it.”
By thinking of the positives, he was able to overcome his career’s greatest negative. First, he had to learn to walk before he could run.
“I wasn’t able to walk at one point and I’m like, ‘Damn, when can I walk?’ When I got to walking it was, ‘When can I jog?’ and when I could jog, it was ‘When can I run?’”
When spring practice opened two weeks ago, Baker was able to run with the team for the first time in eight months.
“I’m excited. When I went out there for the first day of spring drills, it just felt good to line up and stretch and be back in that stretching line,” he said. “I’m just grateful to be back in motion.”
For the first time he ran routes with the team yesterday, but Baker is still not completely back to his normal self. That will come in time. Patience is not a problem after sitting on the sideline for an entire season.
“I’m just taking my time right now. The coaches are taking their time. There’s no need to rush, especially with my last season here. I don’t have another redshirt available, so if I do get hurt, it’s over with. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Until he’s ready to make a complete return to the field, he’ll be another coach on the sideline. The only senior in the young wide receivers room, with a little guidance from a veteran, Baker believes they can be better than him.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility,” he said. “It’s good to teach them the game because I wish I had somebody to coach me up and teach me the game. I played when I was a freshman, so it was like I had to jump right into it. These guys got time to adapt, and older people like me to coach them up.”
As Baker works at his own pace, he’s grateful for one final opportunity to show the Big Blue Nation what he can do. “To be back in action. It feels good…I’m super thankful.”