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Circuitous route lands recruit not far from home

March 15, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

Two years ago, Avery Baker began his pursuit of a dream to play American college football. He uprooted himself from his Oshawa home and headed off to Salisbury, Ct.

Friday, Baker’s quest for a university football career instead wound up in a town just down the road from where he started.

“I talked to some (U.S.) schools but I wanted to be closer to home,” Baker said Friday, after he was among seven incoming freshmen introduced by Queen’s Golden Gaels coach Pat Sheahan at a news conference in the Athletics and Recreation Centre.

“I miss being close to my family.”

Baker, a 6-1, 290-pound aspiring defensive tackle, said he began to get curious about the possibility of playing college ball in the States a few years back and to that end, thought an American prep school gave him the best chance to pursue it. At the Salisbury School, he was following in the footsteps of German-born NFL linebacker Bjorn Werner, who played his only two years of high school football at Salisbury before he was drafted out of Florida State University in the first round in 2013.

Baker had opportunities in the States. He visited Rochester, and talked to recruiters from New Hampshire and Maine. “None of them felt just right,” he said.

“Rochester had great academics but their football program wasn’t very good,” Baker said. “All the other schools I looked at, their football was great but it took away from the schooling.

“At Queen’s I found a great balance between athletics and academics. It allows you go to class, and miss practice if you have to. They know that academics are the bigger thing. That’s why you’re at university: to go to school, not to play football.”

That’s not to say that Baker regrets his Connecticut adventure.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I boarded down there, and that prepares you well for university. Competing against players who are better and stronger than you are only makes you better.”

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