Viking QB promises the moon, then delivers stars“I think 30 touchdowns is a good goal,” said the senior quarterback, which wouldn’t have been too crazy if the best single season number established in over 60 years of Viking football wasn’t 12. But you know what, he was right. And he was right about a lot of other stuff too.
It was three months ago - a hot August day. Lake Stevens Vikings Head Football Coach Tom Tri had just finished putting his charges through a physical, cardio-heavy workout. It was the back end of the day’s second practice, as two-a-days were under way. I was interviewing senior captain Nick Baker, the Viking quarterback.
The day prior, Coach Tri had sat down with me and excitedly explained his new toy. After traveling to Southern California and learning from offensive guru Tony Franklin, Tri had decided to scrap the successful I formation offense that had powered Viking running back Isaac Molstre to career and season rushing records in favor of a pass happy, no huddle attack known as ‘the spread’.
Gone were the days of the 20+ carry-a-game rusher the Vikings were gonna chuck the rock. I figured this would be good news to Baker, so I sought him out for an interview.
Soaking with sweat after consistently finishing first in a series of team wide wind sprints, Baker sat down with me and answered my questions for ten minutes.
I knew Baker had matured through his junior season as a starter he’d been named to honorable mention All Wesco, after all. But I still remembered him as the spindly sophomore lefty who was pressed into action in just about the worst possible scenario: It was the 2006 playoffs, and the Vikes were hosting south Sound power Graham-Kapowsin. Senior QB starter Paxton Paynter had sprained his ankle and could no longer go. As the untested sophomore warmed up on the sidelines, G-K’s all-league middle linebacker licked his chops, eyeing the new prey.
And then the lights went out. The stadium stood in complete darkness for about 30 minutes, and the nervous sophomore was alone with his thoughts.
“I almost got sick,” Baker told me. But he didn’t. Eventually, the lights came back on, and Baker led the Vikes to a playoff win.
Two years later and the spindly lefty was now a sturdy southpaw. As we talked in August, it was obvious that he’d added an inch or two of height, and a good twenty pounds of muscle. I could tell from the workouts that he’d added some footspeed and arm strength as well.
I liked the way that he earnestly and honestly answered questions, the way he looked me right in the eye, the way he thought about what he said before he spoke, and then gave complete well-thought out answers. He definitely had the modest, boy-next-door, All American Eagle Scout vibe going.
So needless to say I was a little surprised when Baker calmly told me that he expected nothing less than an unprecedented record-breaking playoff season from himself and his teammates - a season in which he planned to break every major Viking career and single season passing record.
The current Viking season passing TD mark was 12. Thirty sounded like a better number to Nick. The current Viking passing mark was 1,929 yards, set in 1983. Baker thought 3,000 yards should be his goal. The current single season receiving touchdowns mark was ten set the year before by Dustin Adams with the help of Baker. This year, Nick thought two of the Vikes receivers could better that mark. As a matter of fact, Nick told me he wouldn’t be surprised if the team surpassed every offensive scoring and yardage record of note set in the history of the program.
Again, he was right, about all of it.
As I write this column, it’s Friday, November 7. Tomorrow, the Vikings will travel to Puyallup to take on the 8-1 Roger Rams in the first round of the playoffs (shameless plug: for daily scores and updates, visit Purple and Gold Pigskin at lakestevenjournal.com!).
Going into the game, Baker is the reigning WIAA/Seattle Times 4A State Athlete of the Week. He has passed for over 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns. He has established every single career and season passing record of note. He has received recruiting interest from Yale, Boise State, the UW, Utah State and Linfield. And he has done all of the above while maintaining a 3.5 + GPA and an unwavering positive attitude and can-do spirit.
As of today, I’m not sure how the game will have turned out. Hopefully, the Vikings will have won and moved on to the second round of the playoffs. But maybe they lost, and the season came to an end. Either way, I’ll walk away inspired. I don’t know what it is about young athletes who look at decades of records and see them not as unreachable peaks, but rather as a figure that might be fun to say, double or triple, but I like it. And whether the Vikings win or lose, things are looking up.
Things are looking up because any program, (any community, any family) that produces kids like Nick Baker is doing something right. Because who knows, maybe next year or in ten years someone will look at Baker’s records on a hot, sunny, August day, with the whole season and a whole life of possibilities ahead of them and say “Thirty touchdowns? That’s a pretty good number. But I think I can get fifty.”