Several of those players would fill a need for the Green Bay Packers, as I am sure that Thompson had a close eye on everyone. The Packers have the 30th selection in the first round and also the 56th and 60th selections of the second round, along with five other picks in the draft. Will any of the USC players that Thompson watched be among those picks? Mike Mayock of the NFL Network has the Packers selecting Baker with the 30th pick in round one.
Baker had a storied career at USC. The 6-5, 305 pound lineman was All-American for three years at USC, making him one of only three players in USC's legendary football program to ever do that. Baker was a four-year starter at left tackle who gave up only one sack in 49 starts for the Trojans.
Baker knows something about winning as well. He was a redshirt freshman in 2003 when USC won a share of the national title, then started on the 2004 national champion team. He came close in 2005 to another national title when USC lost to Texas in the final seconds in that title game. Baker was also part of two Rose Bowl championship teams.
Playing at USC was special according to Baker.
"It made you a better player, playing against the best everyday," Baker told Packer Report. "Everything that coach (Pete) Carroll said when he was recruiting me ended up happening. I never envisioned doing some of the stuff, or being able to play with some of the players I got to play with. It was definitely a dream, I couldn't have asked for more in college."
How did it feel to be a national champion?
"We played in the national championship game two years in a row, and definitely the highlight was winning it," Baker said. "We would have liked to have won it the next year, but we had some great guys and the coaches always had us, no matter where we were, in a position to win."
Now the NFL is interested. How did the combine go for instance?
"It was definitely different, with all the interviews and just being around all the NFL personnel," Baker said. "It was a little nerve wracking, because every where you go there was a new test, and they wanted to test this and check that."
Baker had a hamstring injury his senior year at USC and you know the combine doctors wanted to make sure it was fine.
"It took me awhile to get that healed after the season," he said. "I had to go back to the combine re-check to get checked again and everything panned out real good."
After the combine, Baker then had to deal with the USC pro day. How was that experience?
"It was pretty good, and the drills went really good," Baker said. "I didn't run much, and I didn't anticipate to run much because of my injury and my rehab. All in all it was a good day."
Obviously Thompson and the Packers would be interested in a guy like Baker for several reasons. One of the biggest is Baker's ability to play in a zone-blocking scheme.
"We ran the zone in college, and I'm not a huge 350-pound mauler, and the zone emphasizes quickness," Baker said. "Just being in the system, understanding the terminology, knowing how the system works, knowing the reads and the timing and the whole thing, just suits me better."
Baker is also a lot like current Packer Daryn Colledge, who played tackle at Boise State before turning into a guard in Green Bay. Baker was a guard when he first came to USC in 2003. Could he play guard in the pros as well?
"I think so. That was my original position, all through high school," Baker said. "It would come pretty naturally to me I think."
But the Packers also know offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are getting older right now, so they need to find quality depth at those positions. That might be where Colledge will end up. But Baker would definitely be a resource that would be an asset to that line.
Clifton and Tauscher would be an asset to Baker as well, as he learns the NFL ropes.
"Just watching them (Clifton and Tauscher) tells you that they are students of the game and that they love it. I think there is a ton to learn from all those guys."
Clifton and Tauscher are technicians in their work so to speak and so is Baker, according to most scouts.
"I sort of came out of high school and didn't know any technique," Baker said. "Jackie Slater, who played with the Rams all those years, went to my church, and he kind of taught me and took me under his wing and taught me about technique. He helped me understand, because he wasn't a mauler either, and he had to use technique as well, and he taught me very early on how important technique was."
"I got to play against Desmond Bishop. He was sort of the heart of their (Cal) defense," Baker said. "He was calling out our plays, you could tell he was real smart, calling out our plays before we even ran them."
So has anyone made contact with Baker about having an interest of playing with them in the NFL? "Some of them do, but it's kind of hard, because you just don't know," Baker said. "I learned from a lot of my buddies that got drafted that they never know. The people that picked them were the ones you least expected to take them."
Baker said the Packers have not contacted him this spring, so how would Baker feel about playing with the Packers?
"The Packers had a great season last year, and you can tell they are doing a lot of special things out there, and I would love to be a part of that," he said.
Baker had a chance to go into the draft last season, and most likely would have been selected earlier, but he decided to play one more year for the Trojans.
"I always wanted to be the best I possibly could. And if I had an extra year to get better, mentally and physically, I really wanted to do that," Baker said. "The NFL has always been my dream, and it will always be there, and I wanted to make sure I was as ready as possible when I got there."
That dream will be realized on April 26. What will Baker do on draft day?
"It's just going to be my mom, my dad, fiance and my brother, pretty much," Baker said. "We want to keep it small and if I'm lucky to be drafted, we are all going to head over to a Mexican restaurant in Orange County."
Speaking of his family, Baker comes from a very athletic family. His father, David, is the commissioner of the Arena Football League and formerly played basketball at UC-Irvine and then professionally in Europe. His brother, Ben, was an offensive lineman at Duke.
Baker is going to make some NFL team very happy that they selected him. As his head coach Pete Carroll at USC once said, "We get great leadership from Sam. And his tenacity and savvy carry over to the other guys." The Packers may be that NFL team.
Baker and his Trojan teammates are very talented. But Baker is a big reason why the Trojans went 48-4 over his 4 year career, which includes a national championship and two Rose Bowl wins. As Baker said about his career, "It was a dream."
The dream is about to get better. The NFL is waiting.