Florida commit Jerome Baker is a great player.
And yet, he might already be a better man.
ESPN's Tom VanHaaren delivers this story on Baker, of Benedictine High in Cleveland, and what he has done to work against sexual assault and domestic violence. Baker, whose aunt was a victim of kidnapping and sexual assault, was already in anti-domestic violence training when his mentor, famed Ohio coach Ty White, challenged Baker to take a greater stand against sexual assault in the wake of the Steubenville rape case that roiled Ohio since 2012.
So Baker did. He helped organize a seminar for athletes to speak out about domestic violence and sexual assault. He got pledges from athletes to work against sexual assault, instead of standing idly by. He and Kentucky commit Alex Stump are drafting a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to lobby him to make language against sexual and domestic violence a requirement for athletic recruiting literature.
He is doing the things many people do not have the courage to do, and fighting centuries of calcified thinking that has made the unthinkable — violence against loved ones and intimate partners — disturbingly common in our world. This is noble, good work, the kind that more of us ought to do, and Baker's passion for it will likely make his teammates, friends, and community do more of it.
And he'll do more.
This sort of story — published one day after Baker was awarded the jersey he will wear at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl this January at a Tuesday ceremony — makes me hope Baker's the Gators' No. 1 recruiting priority. Either way, though, he's got a diehard fan in me.
You see, Florida could use Jerome Baker. He's a fast, instinctive, and savvy linebacker who could add depth to a position group that is set to lose Neiron Ball and Michael Taylor this year, and Antonio Morrison next year.
Far, far more importantly, however, the world could use Jerome Baker, and many more people like him. And, Gator or not, I'm glad he's part of it.