In my very first interview, I sat down and had a conversation with former NFL player Stephen Baker. Or as NY Giants fans know, the “Touchdown Maker”.
Stephen Baker was drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Giants in the 1987 NFL Draft. He would have a 6-year career in which he spent all those years playing for the Giants before his career ended. be cut short due to a back injury.
I personally met Baker at a sports card show in White Plains, NY. I had a short chat with him, he signed a photo for me, we took a photo together and then we went our separate ways. I recently reconnected with Baker via Instagram to ask if he was interested in an interview.
Baker being the grown-up he was, had to. Our interview lasted about 40 minutes and I heard a lot of stories that I have never heard of. I hope you find his stories and lessons as interesting as I do.
Here’s our chat with former NY Giants star Stephen Baker
GMenHQ: How did you grow up at the start of your life?
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. So you know I was a Dallas Cowboy fan because that’s all we had there… that and the Houston Oilers. We didn’t have much, in fact we lived near the railroad tracks. My grandfather lived up the hill, so to speak, in Texas. That’s how I got my love of football just watching the Dallas Cowboys play every weekend. I remember loving this star they had for what she stood for when they were kids playing Cowboys and Indians and all that nonsense. I played with the small electric soccer sets. They was on a metal grid, you plugged it in, and it was vibrating and the men were scattering all kinds of ways and depending on how much background you had on them, you could turn them so they could go a certain direction. But the game lasted probably 2-3 seconds and then you had to put everything back. It was our Madden at the time.
GMenHQ: I read that you did track in high school. What events have you done?
I was blessed with the speed, that’s what I always say when talking to kids. And I always wanted to work there to be even better. I was like, “Dude, I’m already fast but I can be even better.” So I ran the track. I did the field events, the high jump, the long jump, the triple jump and the quarter mile, and I was on both the 4 × 100 and 8 × 100 relays. My favorite events were the field events. And when I did the high jump, I was still flexible and I had an arch and you can see the image behind me, I’m erasing that. Once I put my chin to my chest, my legs began to stick out. It was in Los Angeles when I was in high school. I’ve always loved the track and like I mentioned I also ran the quarter mile and always said it’s the race that makes you a man because the final part, the 100 last few meters, it’s a tough race. But I did all of this to become a better football player.
GMenHQ When did you start playing football?
Well, when I was in Texas I really didn’t have anyone to play football with. I was probably in 3rd grade, I remember I used to walk the ball between my legs, catch it with the other hand, throw it, run and go and catch it . Then when I finally got into school – and that’s a true story. The kids were on the field playing and I wanted to play and I asked “could I play” and they said “sure” and you know how it’s as new they got me put on the line and they told me to block and I didn’t know how to block. In the first game the guy I was supposed to block ran all around me and hit the guy throwing the ball and broke his nose. They must have thought I did this on purpose so they put me back there. Now I saw what happened to him so when they threw the ball at me – I swear to God they threw it at me, and I stood there for a second, then I rushed over to it. outside like the videos I saw of Tony Dorsett and all those other guys. I just ran outside and remember no one could catch me, and that feeling never left me. It was pretty cool because I just burned everyone down. They didn’t know I was running for my life, I didn’t want to get my nose broken like that other kid. It was my first introduction to football. Then growing up in Los Angeles I grew up in a single parent house for the most part and my mom couldn’t afford to play pop warner football because it was too expensive back then so we played what you call the streetball. Growing up in Los Angeles, we played neighborhood against neighborhood. So every Saturday we would meet at a place called ‘The Field’, and guys from other neighborhoods would come and play games like what you now call ‘kill the porter’, but we have it. made it so simple, we said that whoever gets the ball, just attack them. So we would throw the ball and whoever had the ball just had to run and tackle it. I think that’s where I developed some of my running skills and wasn’t scared because we didn’t have any weight limits back then. I’ve done this a lot over the course of my career and I honestly think it’s helped me learn not to be afraid of being a 5’8, 150-pound guy playing in the NFL.
GMenHQ: When you started playing football what was your first job?
I didn’t play organized football until I entered high school. But I’ve always been drawn to the role of defensive back and wide receiver. When I played DB I was pretty good security because no one could follow me. There was a play in high school I’ll never forget, I used to watch the hard hits all the time when a receiver comes up in the middle and gets stretched out and I got the opportunity to do so. Now, I got on that tight end going through the middle, and I’m telling you I came with everything I had and hit it. He got off but he actually felt like he was hitting a brick wall. And I said I never, ever want to do that. Now I was a full time catcher by the time I got out of high school, didn’t want anything else to do with the defensive back. I remember asking LT (Lawrence Taylor) what he thought when he hit someone. And he said, “I try to hit them so hard that I hurt myself.” Because then he knows he hurt the other person. I didn’t have that mentality.
GMenHQ: What made you decide to specialize in sociology and physical education?
Well, I’ve always loved sports. So I figured if I didn’t do well in the NFL, I would be able to do something that I loved. I like Phys. Ed. I like to be physical, I like to train, I like all forms of sports. I played football in high school, did gymnastics, and also ran. And then the social part, growing up like I did and being able to inspire other kids to try to get out of a bad situation. You know, just because you get a certain hand doesn’t mean you have to accept it. My mom did a great job of keeping us down to earth and keeping us away from all the nonsense. It’s ten times worse now in society but it was still bad when I was young. But like I said my mom kept us at home, bought us the best video game system, now you’re too young to remember but we had black and white TVs and they had Pong where you could hit a ball back and forth through the TV. Everyone in the neighborhood had this game. We had Intelevision. It was way before its time because you had little men who could ski or play basketball. We had the best video game system in the whole neighborhood and it really kept us in the house and kept us on the ground.