Jamestown's Finest

There were three things that most residents of Jamestown hoped running back Toney Baker would accomplish this year: break the state rushing record, lead the Tigers to a state championship and decide to play college football at [insert favorite school here].

With the rushing record broken and Ragsdale falling just short of their state title goal, one major point of discussion remains regarding football and Toney Baker for the year: where will Jamestown's best football player decide to go to college?

Baker has maintained a list of five schools for well over a year, and for many who follow football recruiting in the state of North Carolina it has become almost second nature; Baker is considering Virginia, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

The expected trim to a list of only three schools has yet to materialize, due in large part to Baker's busy schedule and the cancellation of an earlier planned trip to Charlottesville thanks to Ragsdale's playoff success. This weekend, Baker took his first official visit (to North Carolina State), and the trip was enjoyable but tiring.

"You have a very busy schedule on these visits," Baker said. "You go through a lot of discussions about academics, you meet with the coaches, and you meet with the players on their team already."

The visit to N.C. State went well, though Baker cautions observers not to read too much into the order or even the presence of his official visits.

"I had a very good time in Raleigh," he said. "I got a chance to be around their players a lot, and I thought that I fit in very well with them. I can't say that I'm going to decide based upon the officials, though.

"I am 95% sure that I'm still going to announce in Texas [at the Army All-Star game on Jan. 15], even if I'm not able to get in official visits to all of my list by then. If I am not ready to decide, I'll wait, but I really think I'd like to do it then."

For many prospects, the official visit is a time when they can truly become familiar with the places they are considering residing for four years. Baker is a special case, however, in that he has been traveling to the schools on his list for years and already feels quite comfortable that each school would be a place that he could thrive.

"I think that I could go to any of the schools and do well, play early on and succeed," Baker said. "That is why I'm not going to base my decision on the official visits by themselves. [The visit to N.C. State] was like I thought it would be, and the main difference from the other visits is you can get a better feel for the players."

One of the favorite pastimes of Jamestown residents and Internet mavens throughout the country is to speculate and pontificate upon where Baker will decide to go to school. Many individuals even claim that a decision has already been made, but scuttlebutt is often untrustworthy. That is especially true when discussing recruiting, and even more so when there are so many who claim to know what the final result will be.

"I haven't decided anything yet, I haven't committed anywhere," Baker said. "I don't know where that comes from."

The recruiting process has to an extent interfered with Baker's other interests and plans, and the upcoming weekend is a perfect example. He was supposed to travel to Charlottesville, but the Shrine Bowl [to be held Dec. 18] events are beginning and Baker thinks that he is going to reschedule.

"I was going to take off up to Virginia this weekend, but I am going to check and see if there is a better time I can do it," Baker said. "I would go up there, but the Shrine Bowl events start and if I go up this weekend I won't be able to go to the hospital and visit with the children there and I really want to do that. I don't want to miss that."

The pressure of deciding where to go isn't wearing on Baker, but it is something that is always on his mind. With only six weeks remaining until his planned announcement date, he is aware that time is something to be considered.

"Time is running out, to be honest with you," he said with a smile. "There is just not that much time until January 15, and it is going to be difficult for me to make a decision."

With most recruits, the question of what factor will be the most important in their decision is something that they can answer easily. Normally they quickly respond with location, academics, playing time, a coach or any other of a myriad of reasons. For Baker, that isn't the case, and he is typically understated in answering the query.

"I'll just go where I think best," he said. "I have a list of schools that I am comfortable with, and I'll decide."

While Baker's eventual destination is still undecided, one thing is certain: even if Jamestown's most famous resident doesn't decide to go to an individual's favorite school, town residents will cheer for the student and person that has become so appreciated. The Shrine hospital residents whose time matters more to Baker than the recruiting process probably will, too.

Scott Cline can be contacted at 336-841-4933 or by email at jamestownnews@northstate.net.

Photo Courtesy James Anderson/Jamestown News

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