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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Josh Baker

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Northwest Missouri State

New York Jets' Josh Baker (45) runs against the Houston Texans during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason football game Monday, Aug. 15, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Most anyone who has ever caught a pass, made a tackle, or even shanked a punt, dreamed of being drafted by an NFL team.

However, prospects who are chosen coming out of college have no say in where they're going. And there have been times when the marriage is doomed from the vows.

Granted, their contracts aren't as lucrative, but undrafted free agents have choices. And in 2011, Northwest Missouri State tight end Josh Baker said, 'I do' to the Jets' proposal.

"It was an interesting time because when I came out, they were negotiating the CBA. And coming out of that negotiation, there was no rookie minicamp," Baker said. "So after the Draft, there was basically kind of a dead period which I think maybe worked to my advantage. The Jets and two other teams invited me to their training camp.

"The Jets (offer was) actually the least amount from a monetary perspective, but when I broke down the roster, who's the tight end, who's the fullback, what kind of system, my dad was helping me run through the situation and it just ended up the Jets were the highest likelihood we felt like I had a good chance."

They were right. Whittling the list down to the Jets paid off when Baker, despite being the 'new kid in school,' felt at home from the beginning.

"All the guys, they were pretty welcoming," Baker said. "And it was interesting. It's like you wait your whole life for the moment. You show up. You don't know anybody. It's almost like being a freshman at college all over, but with way more pressure."

That's the pressure of learning the playbook, performing well, impressing the coaches, and not having conversations with the Turk on cut-down days. But as Baker discovered, along with pressure came having to expect the unexpected. Even when you don't want to.

"Every day I showed up on the cuts and my name was on the locker," Baker said. "And then I make the last cut. You have excitement. You meet with management. They said they're going to put me on practice squad. I go out to the very first practice and I don't even get to step on the field, and I get cut. They said they had to make room for the 53-man roster, and told me to be on standby. And in my mind, that's what they tell everybody. I made the cuts, but then I get cut. My career's over.

"So I go back and it's the first time since training camp I really got to hang out and eat ice cream, and I'm watching the (Jets-Raiders) game. I saw Jeff Cumberland tear his Achilles. They gave me a call and said, 'Get ready, we're going to fly you in.' And so I fly in and it was Mark Sanchez and Dave Szott picking me up from the airport, which was really cool.

"I go right upstairs (to talk with player personnel when we got to the facility) and they said, 'Alright, you're on the roster. You're not even on the practice squad. We're going to activate you. Go see Coach (Mike) Westhoff and get situated on special teams. Welcome to the big league.'"

Inactive for 2011's Week 4 game in Baltimore and the Week 5 game in New England, Baker first took the field on Oct. 17, Week 6, against Miami at MetLife Stadium. He contributed a 16-yard kick return in the 24-6 win.

Baker's first touchdown catch was also at MetLife, when the Jets hosted the Giants during a Saturday afternoon game, the day before Christmas, and he hauled in a 5-yard pass from Sanchez in the 29-14 'Battle of New York' loss.

"I think that was more of a moment of appreciation than the first play," Baker said. "Kind of like the universe of everything culminated to that point. First touchdown, in my mind there's many more to come. Only up from here. Just a bunch of positive thoughts."

Spending the following season on Injured Reserve because of his knee, what are among Baker's fondest memories from his time with the Jets?

"All the people were really cool. The head trainer, John Mellody, super cool," Baker said. "I feel like all the people who were in management level positions were just really cool people. Nobody was really stuck up. I think it was a combination of that and just a really nice facility. It's clean like a hospital. And the nutrition. All the chefs were really cool.

"The combination of that kind of gave me this sense of like, 'Man, this is the big league.' I didn't really get to really appreciate that, understanding that every team is different and ran and operated different, and just looking back kind of seeing how spoiled we are to get to play with the Jets with a really nice facility."

Recently becoming engaged to Jennifer Whalen, Baker makes his home in Austin, Texas, where he is the founder of LYNQ. Its aim is to unite former NFL players on a platform that will allow them to launch events, connect with each other, and use each other's resources.

"There's a lot of organizations out there like the NFL Alumni, NFLPA, that kind of bundle resources and do a good job. But unless you go on a Facebook group or LinkedIn group, there's really not a platform that allows us to just connect with each other. And I feel like that's key in a lot of areas," Baker said.

"The ultimate goal would be to get as many guys on the platform connected as possible. And I think it's important for mainly two reasons. One, I feel that it'd really help solve an identity crisis, which, I think, we all go through once we retire. Most people who are, say, an IT consultant, retires at 65. When they get done, people ask, 'What do you do now?' And their response is, 'Play golf all day. You know, I'm retired.' That may slide for us when you're two years out, but when you're in your high 30s or low 40s, saying you used to play in the NFL happened so long ago. But we hold on to that because we're still trying to figure it out.

"And then secondly, people go through rough patches in their transition, and I think sometimes you're hesitant of calling on old teammates to ask for advice. So the ultimate goal is get a maximum amount of guys in this thing to understand that we don't need, necessarily, other organizations that are funded by the NFL, and wait for them to put on an event. Where we all have interesting things going on ourselves, and can tap into each other for resources on our own."