For Baker, it's all about team

For Baker, it's all about team

Heading into the 2007 football season, USC LT Sam Baker was thought to be the cream of the crop among a distinguished group, but injuries and inconsistency plagued him during his senior campaign. Still, even with a minor bump in what was an otherwise stellar career at Troy, Baker is one of the top individual performers at his position, but he will never forget – football is a team game.

"We were able to do some great things out there," Baker said about his four years at USC. "It was probably the best time of my life, just winning all of those games. To be a part of those teams was amazing.

"I had a lot of great players around me, and I got some recognition, but I think being an offensive lineman, it's about recognition of your entire line. So I'm very grateful for the guys I had around me."

To say Baker got "some recognition" would be an understatement.

He was a three-time All-American first teamer – the third Trojan to receive that honor along with Richard Wood and Matt Leinart – and was a four-year starter on one of the top teams in the country.

Besides all of the skilled players surrounding him on offense, Baker also acknowledged the players he faced every day in practice – the uber-talented USC defense.

"Man, (Sedrick Ellis) was unblockable at times," Baker admitted. "Then having that linebacking corps, there were a lot of good linebackers that will be coming out next year that could have come out this year and then you add that with Keith (Rivers), and it's an awesome defense."

Baker missed three games last season – Notre Dame, Oregon State and California – due to a strained hamstring and finished two other games after re-aggravating the injury against Oregon and Arizona.

So teams have been looking at his hamstring to make sure it's back to 100%.

"I had a million MRIs yesterday," Baker said with a shake of his head.

With a relatively average, by Baker's standards at least, senior campaign, does the 6-4, 310 pound lineman from Tustin, California regret returning for his senior season seeing as he would likely have been an early first-rounder in 2007?

"I think it was definitely the right decision (to return)," Baker said confidently. "Even if my draft stock is lower, if I get drafted lower, the things that I've learned from the adversity I've faced this year will serve me the rest of my life.

"I have no regrets about that."

Either way, Baker is likely to hear his named called early on the first day of the draft and he'll owe it all to the teammates he played with and faced every day in practice the past five years.

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