Dream Come True

This season, Florida State will put one of its fastest teams in recent memory on the field but the quickest player on the team is a relative unknown to even the most avid Seminole fan. In fact, walk-on receiver <B>Derek Baker</b> may still be a stranger among some of his teammates. Click here for an update on Baker.

Derek Baker, a sprinter on Florida State's track team, joined the Seminoles' football team at the beginning of preseason camp, deciding to try his hand at football again after a severe knee injury derailed his playing career two years ago.

"I've been doing this all my life except for the past two years," said Baker, a former standout at Miami Northwestern.

"Coming back has been hard but it's nothing I can't handle."

His junior year at Northwestern, Baker was Dade county's leading prep rusher and won the state title in the 400-meter run. Poised to challenge Frank Gore's Dade single-season rushing record his senior year, Baker caught a bit of misfortune, going down with a torn ACL and MCL early in the season.

As Baker rehabbed, several potential collegiate suitors backed away. Others held their offers firm.

"I still could have gone a lot of places," Baker said.

"But my dream has always been to play football at Florida State. I was fortunate enough to get the track scholarship and then get my chance out here."

After recovering from his injury, Baker quickly regained his amazing speed but had to wait for his surgeon to clear the knee for contact before he could return to the game. When the Seminoles tested their 40-yard dash times in July, Baker stole the show- his hand-timed 4.2' was easily the fastest on the day.

In pads he's fast, too.

"The first couple days I felt kind of heavy but once I got back into my rhythm," he said. "But learning the plays and grasping the offense has been the hard part."

Fortunately, Baker has had some help getting re-acclimated to gridiron life. J.R. Bryant, a high school teammate, is a freshman cornerback on the team. Baker has, in turn, has guided Bryant though is first few weeks on campus.

"He's like my little brother," Baker said.

"Out there at practice, we go at each other. He lets me know when I'm doing something wrong and I let him know when he's got something to work on."

Through the first two weeks, Baker has been rotating in with the second-team offense. He's also worked at returning kick-offs during special teams sessions. In FSU's first two scrimmages, Baker has caught four balls and rushed twice on end arounds.

"He has got the natural elusiveness you can't coach," offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. "He's been working hard to get back and we've been working to create ways to get him the ball."

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