Already a standout on the Crowley track team as a sophomore, Sedrick Baker was set to join the varsity football team as a receiver during 2016 spring drills.
Fresh off the regional track meet, where he registered a Class 5A Region I triple jump record of 45 feet, 11 inches, Baker caught a screen pass in spring football and was tackled by multiple defenders. His left knee went one way, but he went another.
“I thought my leg was done,” Baker said. “I didn’t think I was going to play again.”
He tore the anterior, medial and posterior cruciate ligaments and sustained nerve damage that resulted in drop-foot, which is the inability to lift the front part of the foot and causes the toes to drag while walking. Drop-foot stems from weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the foot.
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“When the injury happened, we didn’t know what to think,” Baker’s mother Brianna Baker said. “All I could think was why him and why now. It was devastating for him and for all of us. He spent the whole summer of 2016 in bed and had no desire to get out of the house.”
Brianna Baker said Sedrick is wearing knee and foot braces, which help control his foot, but during therapy, he had to retrain his brain when turning it inside and out.
“It was a crazy experience seeing it first hand,” said senior linebacker Kris Greer, who has known Baker since before grade school. “When I heard the news, it hurt my heart because we’re best friends — he’s like my brother.”
Baker’s nightmare should sound familiar to Dallas Cowboys fans.
Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered the same injury in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl. Uncertain of his recovery time, the Cowboys took a chance and selected him 34th overall in that year’s NFL draft.
Smith got his first NFL tackle — 596 days after the Fiesta Bowl — in a preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 19. He has 34 tackles and one forced fumble through four regular-season games.
According to Brianna Baker, the Cowboys are planning to invite Sedrick to The Star in the near future. In the meantime, resilience is Smith’s advice to Baker.
“Any time you go through adversity, you just have to stay poised,” Smith said. “Everything is going to be all right.
“You have to keep a clear-eyed view, which is focus, vision, firm belief and earned dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Just believe.”
I know how Jaylon felt and how he feels now. They doubted us and we are proving them wrong. I’m really excited to get a chance to hopefully meet up with him and compare what we went through, and hear what he struggled with the most. Hopefully he can give some pointers on things that I struggle with.
Doctors were doubtful he would never play football or run track again, but Baker, now a senior at Crowley, never gave up hope and made his return to the field last month.
“Sedrick is an incredible human being,” Crowley coach Chris James said. “To see what he went through, and a year and a half later he’s doing things on the football at the best he can, is a testament to our training staff and his own work ethic.”
Baker endured three surgeries over 15 months, the last a tendon transfer to correct the drop foot.
Brianna Baker said that her son, who also competes in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays and the high jump, is considered a college track prospect. James said he considered holding Baker out until track season.
“We had talked whether we wanted him to play football or just wait for track, but he wanted to be out here with his teammates,” James said. “He’s working hard and getting better every day.”
Baker had his second agility test on Sept. 12 with athletic trainer Lou Watanabe. He passed the test and was able to suit up.
“It’s been a long process and year of recovery,” Watanabe said. “He never gave up, never complained and always had a smile on his face. He was always positive.”
It's been amazing to watch him grow from his injury.
Sedrick’s mother Brianna Baker
The first surgery came three weeks after the injury. Rehab followed six weeks later.
Quitting was never an option.
“I have a love for football and track. I’ve played since I was five,” Baker said. “I’m just not a quitter and it’s in my blood to work hard for want I want. I never give up.”
Last week, in Crowley’s District 9-5A opener against Burleson Centennial, Baker played in a game for the first time in two years. He was in on six snaps as the Eagles won 20-7.
First time I saw him with the pads again, I said ‘my boy is back’ and I just thank God for an amazing recovery.
Crowley senior linebacker Kris Greer
“He’s a great kid and we love having him back,” James said. “Just shows how tough and dedicated he is, and I’m proud of him. It’s a great joy to see him back out here.”