By Dr. Ken 


The National Football League draft will occur within days of the posting of this monthly column. The intrigue, interest, and debate that leads up to this annual event has taken on the trappings of an actual athletic contest. The extensive media coverage includes speculation, ongoing live interviews, invasions of athletes’ and families’ personal lives, and enough hype by “draft experts” to elevate it to the status of a minor sport. For all of the study, evaluation, time, effort, and expertise that results in choosing what are supposed to be the very best players relative to their specific roles with individual teams, it seems as if the “experts” get it wrong as often as they get it right! Like college football recruiting, the five star ratings and overall “Best Recruiting Class Of The Year” designations mean nothing and the proof of the evaluations is only known a few years after the commitments are made. Did your favorite team have a “good” draft? Were all of the holes from last season’s debacle filled? “Check back with me in two or three years, we’ll probably have an answer.”

Very often, a so-called “bust” is only that because a team has no clue how to best utilize the talents of the drafted player. I will not dispute the fact that some players truly are found wanting, some obviously so and some for reasons that perhaps could not have been predicted before draft day. For those who remember the great Michigan State team of 1965 [ see HELMET HUT ]

there was no way that the St. Louis Cardinals, who had drafted Harold Lucas in the second round following that Spartans’ National Championship season, could have predicted events to follow.


 Harold Lucas, # 51, demonstrates his All American form vs. Illinois

The Cardinals had lost first round choice Carl McAdams from Oklahoma, to the American Football League Jets. To insure that they did not lose Lucas to the Patriots who had drafted him in their third round, they willingly overpaid and gave him close to $300,000.00 and a house. The 286 pound nose guard and defensive tackle who teamed with Bubba Smith to control the line of scrimmage on a National Championship defense, reported to pre-season camp at a bloated and relatively immobile 320.

The chef serves Bubba Smith (left) and Harold Lucas enough meat for a family of six! Lucas spent too much time and money eating his way out of a pro career.

Expecting a cat-quick 280 pound ball of athleticism and noting that a good deal of Lucas’ signing bonus went to the various food outlets in East Lansing, the Cards ordered Lucas to lose weight as quickly as possible. Lucas instead fled camp after two days, voiding his contract willingly, giving up what was for the day a tremendous amount of money, and obviously making for a wasted draft choice. Perhaps USC’s R. Jay Soward would fall into the same category as Lucas, “a wasted draft choice,” though he did put almost a year of service in for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another first rounder, he was one however, that came with warning flags, Soward who had been suspended while at USC and who had also admitted to receiving illegal payments while there, made it through part of his first season with the Jags.

He unfortunately allowed those warning flags to fly via missed meetings, unexplained absences from numerous practices, and a well publicized confrontation with police officers. The Jaguars obviously, when looking at Soward’s production of fourteen receptions for only one-hundred-and-fifty yards, four kickoff and fourteen punt returns, knew they had squandered a draft choice.


To this present day, when lists of “Draft Busts” or “Heisman Trophy Winners Who Did Not Make It” are published, one always reads the name of Terry Baker. Baker was another one of the football players I admired, one I found as a source of motivation as a high school athlete attempting to improve my own abilities. That he was on the other side of the country at Oregon State University made it difficult to follow his weekly exploits closely and often only through a box score published in the Sunday edition of the New York Times sports section, yet he was obviously terrific. When we think about a player in our modern age of football who just didn’t make it or live up to expectations as reflected in their draft position, we frequently look to “lifestyle related issues” as the crippling factor. Certainly, Heisman winners like Charles White and Rashaan Salaam would seem reflective of these problems that hindered their professional careers.



Baker was the other side of the coin, a good student, a dependable individual in all of his endeavors, and certainly an extraordinary athlete. When some self righteous media types explain away criminal behavior or the use of drugs by athletes as a result of “the way they grew up” and thus try to make it more acceptable, we can look to Baker who shared a similar upbringing as many fallen football heroes, yet was always a model citizen and became a successful attorney.


Baker’s father abandoned the family when Terry was a young child, leaving his mother to raise three sons by herself on the wages of a store checker or cashier, and as Baker noted, “without any help whatsoever from any other source.” He further described, without complaining that they never owned a car nor did his mother have vacations from work and thus never saw her son play sports until he arrived at Oregon State University. Incredibly, the left-handed athlete pitched right handed as a result of the lack of money the family grew up with. Explaining that he was “not ambidextrous, I’m left-handed,” he was forced to use his older brother Gary’s baseball glove as it was the only one he had access to and as Gary was right-handed, Terry played baseball the same way. Thus, Baker became a Heisman winning left-handed quarterback but was a right-handed baseball player, and a pitcher at that!   As a multi-sport star in high school who had led the football team to two state championships, the baseball team to one, and the basketball team to the championship game twice, he had intended to play basketball, the source of his college scholarship, and baseball for the Beavers.


Baker had no plans to play football but with the baseball season starting slowly with numerous rained out games, he was more or less cajoled by OSU head coach Tommy Prothro to join spring practice and play tailback in their Single Wing offense. He shared playing time with Don Kasso, learned the system and then became the starting quarterback when the team switched to the T Formation the following season. By his senior season of 1962, Baker was a bona fide star but few would have predicted the unprecedented performance he gave. The modest Baker noted that “toward the end of the season, I was aware that I was leading the nation in total yards or something-one of those statistics- that was the nature of our offense. I’d get some running and some passing, and when you add them together, it was enough to get over some quarterback who just passed or just ran.”  When the season was completed, Baker’s favorite receiver Vern Burke, led the nation in every receiving category, Baker was the third best passer, and the OSU offense posted the second best total offense and third best passing offense marks. The Beavers 9-2 record against better competition was excellent, but a 14-13 loss to Washington kept them from the Orange Bowl. Against Villanova in a frost-like, seventeen degree Liberty Bowl game, Baker, quoting Sports Illustrated, “Like a James Bond in shoulder pads…called on himself to transmute imminent peril into triumph,” and dashed for an NCAA record, 99 yard touchdown run for the 6-0 victory. Immediately after the game, he flew to Kentucky to join the OSU basketball squad in a tournament. Needless to add, the Jack-Armstrong-like Baker was named to the All Tournament Team.


When it was said and done, Baker completed his career at Oregon State with unprecedented honors. He accumulated 4979 total yards and thirty-eight touchdowns, heavy hitting for that era. He was a first team Consensus All American, named to fourteen different All America teams, became the first player from the Northwest to win the Heisman Trophy, and also took home the Maxwell Award. Baker was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman Of The Year, and incredibly, led the Beavers basketball team to the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Maintaining the “All American Boy” legend, he graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Baker was later inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame, the State Of Oregon Sports Hall Of Fame, and the Oregon State University Sports Hall Of Fame. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, the very first player chosen.


That Baker never became an All Pro, never was a pro football star, and in fact rarely played, has attracted the terms “bust,” “draft day mistake,” and worse but was it Baker or was it the Rams? Was it the player, or the time and place he played in? Certainly, no one can doubt the work ethic or talent of Terry Baker. At 6’3” and 195 pounds, he had the size, strength, speed, and ability to compete with anyone. His success was not due to playing on a college team with an outstanding supporting cast, though his receiver Burke, another NFL “disappointment,” was gifted. Baker himself described the OSU team as “…just a bench of average football players… we got a lot more out of what we were doing than you might have expected.”  As a multi-sport collegiate athlete, one who obviously excelled, he knew “what it took”, so looking at the statistics that say so little about his career, fifty-eight rushing attempts for 210 yards and one touchdown, thirty pass receptions for 302 yards and two touchdowns, and twenty-one passing attempts with twelve completions, what went wrong? He was tried at quarterback, running back, and receiver and had the mental aptitude and physical toughness for all of them.

There is no doubt that there are cases of players where their skill set is well suited, perhaps perfectly suited, for the level they are playing at but ascending to the next level obviates the ability they have. The great player becomes average or worse. Florida’s Tim Tebow might fall into this category, in many ways, a player similar to Baker in style and leadership qualities. Tebow however, came into the NFL with doubters, questionable mechanics, and the advantage of playing in a system that suited his skills well if not perfectly. Baker was a T Formation quarterback in high school, one of the nation’s best, proved superb in the Single Wing at tailback, and was the Heisman Trophy winner when he once again stepped into the T Formation.  He was a true run-pass dual threat and the Rams, a team that struggled from ’63 through 1965 with 5-9, 5-7-2. 4-10 records under head coach Harland Svare, perhaps never knew how to best blend his talents with those of Roman Gabriel, Bill Munson, and Dick Bass. As Baker later stated, "I think I came 50 years too early. The game has evolved. It's changed so much. The West Coast style used by so many teams today is more my style. I could throw the 5-yard pass -- probably still could. But I don't think I was as good a drop-back passer as was required in those days. It was sink or swim, and I sunk. And we were the worst team in the league." He was also required to start the first game of his rookie season when he admittedly stated he was not ready to do so, especially for what many have described as "an unorganized Rams team." He threw so much in practice that he battled a sore arm and was then moved to halfback. Without the blazing speed needed, and battling more injuries, the position switch was non-productive.   Thus, Baker fell through the cracks, was never given an opportunity to become established in a definitive role, spent a season with Edmonton in the Canadian Football League, and retired. His retirement of course was merely from football. Utilizing his intellectual talents, he attended USC’s Law School in the off-seasons and became a successful attorney. Unfortunately, many fans remember Terry Baker for his pro football failure rather than for his truly great level of success at Oregon State.