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Former Tritons football captain Brad Baker will be inducted into the program’s Hall of Fame on June 14. Photo by Steve Breazeale
Former Tritons football captain Brad Baker will be inducted into the program’s Hall of Fame on June 14. Photo by Steve Breazeale

Brad Baker to be inducted into San Clemente Football Hall of Fame

By Steve Breazeale

San Clemente football head coach Jaime Ortiz might have put it best when summing up the program’s soon to be Hall of Fame inductee Brad Baker.

“Wherever Brad Baker goes, national championships and winning follow,” Ortiz said.

The line is fitting for a man who has won as much on the field wearing the red and black as off it.

Baker, 36, was the blue collar, hard hitting offensive tackle and team captain for the Tritons in the mid-90’s. His list of accomplishments at both the high school, collegiate and professional levels include All-CIF honors, All-State Junior College honors, two national championships and dozens of other accolades.

On June 14 Baker will become the 18th player inducted into the San Clemente football Hall of Fame following the annual Hall of Fame Golf Tournament at Talega Golf Club.

Baker, the assistant principal at Marco Forster Middle School, is proud of his accomplishments on the gridiron, there’s no doubting that. In fact, he regularly accredits football and the lessons learned from it for guiding him into his chosen career path—education.

Baker was never the stand out student growing up in San Clemente. He coasted through Concordia Elementary and Shorecliffs Middle School, never focusing his full attention on the classroom. Baker chalks it up to several issues, including his parents separating and the death of his grandparents, which led to a difficult stretch in the youngster’s life.

“I wasn’t interested in learning at that time because I had a lot of things going on in life,” Baker said. “I needed to mature. I wasn’t a terrible kid…But I just didn’t want to be in class. I wanted to be outside.”

By the time Baker reached San Clemente High his big frame was starting to fill out and the football field was beckoning him. As a 6-foot-1-inch, 290-pound sophomore Baker was brought up to varsity and put under the guidance of head coach Mark McElroy and the Tritons coaching staff.

The success in football quickly followed as Baker and the Tritons reached the playoffs for the first time in 20 years and barnstormed their way to the CIF-SS semifinals.

The victories on the field were nice, but they were not translating to the classroom, as Baker struggled to keep his GPA above 2.0, the minimum required to be athletically eligible.

Being around his teammates and coaching staff every day in high school is what fueled Baker to try harder.

“Those guys really took me in. I could have gone the other direction and not passed classes but they really took me in and helped me and taught me a lot of lessons about life, more than just football,” Baker said.

Playing football for USC had long been Baker’s dream. He felt it was his calling to play football at the collegiate level and attend his grandfather’s alma mater. But after being told by a San Clemente teacher that college might not be in the cards, Baker suddenly felt the switch flip on.

“I felt like I disappointed my family and myself my senior year…I just decided I’m going to give this school thing a try… I finally decided to take ownership over my learning,” Baker said.

He went to Saddleback College and aced his classes, earning a 4.0 GPA in his first semester. The ability to pick and choose the classes that interested him inspired the college freshman.

Baker lined up on the football field and aced that challenge as well and the Gauchos went on to claim a national junior college championship that same year.

“All of this stuff in the past about not being a good student kind of washed away and now I had this confidence that I could do college,” Baker said.

Baker would eventually transfer to Azusa Pacific University, where he got his B.A in education, and win another college football national championship. After that he went on to earn his master’s degree in educational leadership from Chapman University.

In an ironic turn of events Baker is now working towards his doctorate at the school of his dreams—USC. In eight days Baker will travel to Costa Rica to conduct research on the impact of large foreign investment companies on schools and universities and how that relates to their quality of education.

Baker now spends his days offering guidance to the children of Marco Forster who need that extra nudge in the classroom. He uses a football coaching style approach in which he sets goals for the kids and has them work as a team to help accomplish larger ones, like graduating from high school and going to college.

It’s a perfect fit for the man who, at one time, was in the same scenario as the kids he now mentors.

The relationships built between his fellow teammates, family, friends and coaches is what Baker says helped him achieve so much in life. On June 14, those same people will stand and applaud as he is enshrined in Tritons football history.

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