This is the fourth of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011. Prior Posts:
This list will begin and end with just one player.
The college football landscape is littered with players that do good things. There are human interest stories each and every year about how players are changing their community and volunteering their time. I won't say that it's easy to be a football player, but maybe it's safe to say that it's easy to be a football player that doesn't give any of their time to the community. Imagine if you will, a player that not only gives their time to the football program, gives the appropriate amount of time to their studies and then gives back to their community. That's not easy.
The story of running back Baron Batch isn't typical. Batch was a relatively highly-rated running back coming out of Midland. Aside from being a talented football player, Batch was athletically gifted, running a 10.69 100-meter dash as a senior in high school. To say that Batch was talented would be an understatement. Batch arrives at Texas Tech as many high school football players arrive at their respective universities. Full of confidence and willing and wanting to experience all that college has to offer.
Two summers ago, LAJ's Don Williams profiled Batch and his journey at Texas Tech. Batch was honest about the person he was when he arrived in Lubbock:
"Especially my first year up here," the Texas Tech running back said. "First one in the club, last one to leave. Tried to be a player (socially). Tried to have as many girls … Tried it all, and found no satisfaction in any of that.
But success didn't necessarily follow Batch. In a span of two years, Batch had seven ankle surgeries in eight short months, and a staph infection that made Batch think about whether he was on the right path:
Instead, Batch thinks a broken ankle and a staph infection that dug into the bone might have been the best thing to happen to him. It at least made him miserable enough to listen to former teammates Keyunta Dawson, a minister’s son, and Manny Ramirez, a minister’s son-in-law.
"I was up in the hospital, I think after my sixth or seventh surgery, and I was (thinking), I need a change. I need some help.’ And those two came and prayed for me," Batch said. "They were like, You need to come to Bible study. Start coming to church.’ And I thought, it’s not going to hurt. That’s where it started. Those two planted that seed. God has been faithful to water it, and it’s just grown, and he’s blessed me abundantly."
My choice for Batch being one of my all-time favorite players isn't necessitated on his belief in one particular faith over another. It's the fact that Batch made a positive change in his life, when it would have been very easy not to make any change at all. Former Texas Tech running backs coach Seth Littrell had this to say about the type of person that Batch had become:
"I can’t say I faced adversity like Baron," he said. "I don’t think a lot of people have. With what he’s gone through – not only in college, but growing up – he’s had some adversity to overcome. He has the determination and drive to understand what he wants in life and go get it, and he’s going to be successful because of that."
But the thing is that Batch's story didn't stop in 2008 when that story was published. I've linked and highlighted Batch's personal blog before and to say that he's a talented individual would be the second understatement about Batch. He has an eye for taking wonderful photographs. Of course there's nothing wrong with football players taking mission trips to help those people that need help, but it's another thing to not get a lick of media exposure.
And all of this is to say that in addition to making a positive change in his life, he's also a pretty good football player and has the respect of his teammates. Last year, his teammates were polled and almost three-fourths of them chose Batch as the team's toughest player:
Safety Brett Dewhurst said Batch is the first player he’d pick for a pickup game. Offensive linemen Joe King and Chris Olson said when they get tired, on the field or in the weight room, the guy picking them up is likely to be the 205-pound junior running back from Midland. Center Justin Keown called him an "all-around tough (expletive)."
"He’s hungry for the ball and doesn’t mind contact," Keown said. "He likes running over people. He wants to get hit. He loves practicing. When he gets hurt, he’s out there the next day, wanting to be practicing."
The Jackson 5 and Baron Batch highlights? Sign me up!
I have a pretty good feeling that Batch will be spending his Sundays playing football, but I also have a pretty good feeling that if that dream never worked out, he'd be just fine.
And my thought that Batch is one of my all-time favorite players isn't to say that Batch is infallible. I'm sure that he would be the first to admit that he isn't perfect and although I've never talked to Batch, I'd guess that he might be a little uncomfortable being the singular person on this list. Perhaps that's what drives home the point even more, it's that Batch is humble in the best possible way and in collegiate sports-world where it's all about style over substance, Batch is the antithesis of that.
There are a ton of incredible players who I have cheered for more (this is just a handful): Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, Rylan Reed, Wes Welker, Zach Thomas, Robert Johnson, etc. They and so many others have contributed greatly to Texas Tech's football history including Dave Parks, Donny Anderson and E.J. Holub.
I've told you about my all-time favorite Red Raider, what about you? Who's your all-time favorite player and why?