Deandre Baker was everything a Georgia football player should strive to be

Georgia football-Deandre Baker-NFL draft
Deandre Baker will not play in the Sugar Bowl against Texas.

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Deandre Baker is already a DGD

Deandre Baker has played his last down of college football. Georgia coach Kirby Smart announced on Thursday that the senior cornerback, who is still with the team in New Orleans, will not play in the Sugar Bowl as he prepares for the 2019 NFL Draft.

This is a reversal from what Baker said earlier in the month when he intended to play in the game. Some might not like the decision Baker made. Those who do are wrong.

Baker has given everything to the University of Georgia. He didn’t arrive at Georgia with a ton of fanfare or expectations, as he was a 3-star recruit and the No. 657 overall player in the 2015 class. He stayed with the Bulldogs as they transitioned from Mark Richt to Kirby Smart.

In the four years Baker spent in Athens, he became the best defensive back in college football. For his play in 2018, Baker was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He became the first Georgia defensive back in school history to win the award. Baker constantly held the other team’s best wide receiver in check, most famously when he held South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel to 6 catches for 33 yards.

Some have been critical of the decision made by top flight players to bypass bowl games to prepare for the NFL draft. After a stellar senior season, Baker is widely projected to be a first round pick. LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and Rashan Gary of Michigan are just two players who are skipping New Year’s Six games to get ready for the NFL draft. But unlike those two, Baker already bypassed the NFL draft as he came back for his senior season after a stellar junior campaign.

“Look, across the country, there are a lot of guys that made that decision. And it really weighed heavy on that kid,”  Smart said. “He came to us and told us. And I told him we would support him, and he’s here with us. He’s part of our family. He came back after having a pretty good grade as a junior and decided to play, and he helped get us to this point.”

Related: Georgia football coach Kirby Smart supports Deandre Baker’s decision to skip bowl

Davin Bellamy, a teammate of Baker’s and current member of the Houston Texans, revealed that NFL scouts were asking about why Baker didn’t come out for last year’s NFL draft at the 2018 NFL Draft Combine. Bellamy also went on to call Baker one of the best teammates he’s ever played with.

For those who still want to consider Baker selfish, the senior cornerback did talk over the decision with his teammates before reaching a final decision.

“I support my teammate 100 percent. He talked to us and he talked to his family. I got to support him,” Georgia defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter told the media on Thursday. “He is just in a situation where he is really blessed right now and he is where he needs to be. I’m just happy that he talked to us about it and got our input and we support him.”

It’s also worth remembering that Baker is still a college student. Some college kids have jobs lined up before they graduate. Others have a final beach trip with their college pals planned. As much as Baker would like to go play with his teammates once last time, he has to go ahead and start thinking about his NFL future.

Baker gave everything he had to the Georgia football program. In his four years in Athens, he made the team, program and school better. He’s everything a college football player should strive to be, and Georgia fans are better for having gotten to watch him play.

College Football Bowl Picks

After a stellar regular season where we went 48-33-2 we’ve decided to roll out picks one final time for 2018. As always, don’t actually put money down on these picks.

No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 15 Texas, 8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN, WSB Radio 95.5 FM/750 AM, Tuesday

Georgia is the better team here, but as DawgNation’s Chip Towers has pointed out, the Bulldogs have had a lot more distractions in the run up to this game. The Bulldogs are a big favorite, 13 points, and there figure to be more Texas fans at the game than Georgia fans. All the signs point to the Longhorns keeping this game close. That’s why I’m going with Georgia to cover and win. Georgia 44 (-13), Texas 20

Auburn v. Purdue, 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Friday

Auburn is the more talented team and in normal circumstances, they would be the pick. But with news that Purdue fan Tyler Trent will be at the game, I cannot go against the Boilermakers. Purdue wins and ends Auburn’s no-good season. Purdue 27 (+3.5), Auburn 20

No. 7 Michigan v. No. 10 Florida, 12 p.m., ESPN, Saturday

A number of Michigan starters are sitting out for the game, and it’s clear that they aren’t thrilled about playing in this game. But Florida might be the worst top-10 team of all time. Plus, Michigan has owned Florida under Jim Harbaugh.  Michigan 28 (-5.5), Florida 19

No. 2 Clemson v. No. 3 Notre Dame 4 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday

This is the first of two playoff games on Saturday. Both Clemson and Alabama are double-digit favorites, and of the two games I actually expect this one to be closer. Notre Dame’s defense is legitimately good while the rest of the ACC that Clemson beat up on is decidedly bad. Clemson has more experience in these type of settings, but I think Notre Dame is going to pull a surprise upset on Saturday. Notre Dame 27 (+12.5), Clemson 24

No. 1 Alabama v. No. 4 Oklahoma, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday

Oklahoma and Alabama can both score points. But Alabama’s defense is the only one of these two that can get stops. Tua Tagovailoa isn’t 100 percent, but Jalen Hurts showed he’s more than capable of moving the ball on a good defense. Imagine what he could possibly do against defense like Oklahoma’s? Alabama 52 (-14), Oklahoma 28

No. 6 Ohio State v. No. 9 Washington, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN, Jan. 1

The granddaddy of them all. The Rose Bowl is the best bowl game, even if it can’t possibly live up to last year’s thriller between Georgia and Oklahoma. This will be Urban Meyer’s last game as Ohio State’s head coach. It would be all too perfect if Washington could send him out with a loss. Washington 24 (+6.5), Ohio State 20 

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