By Jeffrey Swindoll
Senior offensive tackle Troy Baker and senior quarterback Bryce Petty are just two of many Baylor players that witnessed the tide turn in Waco. They have seen Baylor’s status change from ‘mediocre Big 12 member’ turn into ‘national championship potential.
Those players had to imagine what Baylor could be because it was not a reality by any means a few years ago. Because of their belief and dedication, Baylor football has become a Big 12 powerhouse and arguably the best college football program in Texas.
“It’s changed tremendously since I’ve been here,” Petty said. “It was always just talks and never really action about it. Now to see where we’ve been my freshmen year, not only as a program, but as a community and the support to where we are now, it’s huge.”
Petty’s freshman year was former quarterback Robert Griffin III’s final season with the Bears. That team set the stage for Baylor’s unprecedented rise in the college football ranks. After huge results in the next two seasons, including beating No. 5 Oklahoma at Floyd Casey Stadium, beating the top-ranked Kansas State Wildcats and the blowing out UCLA in the Holiday Bowl, Petty started to see the ball rolling in Baylor’s favor first-hand in his early years.
“I’m excited personally,” Petty said. “That was one of the reasons I came back. I want to be the best to ever play here. Any time you can get that knowledge and experience, everything helps.”
Baker grew up going to Baylor games, living through the dark times that plagued Baylor football. So much so, that he had to be convinced by Baylor head coach Art Briles’ about why he should to commit to playing for Baylor.
Baker was also one of many players that Briles reeled in, selling the program simply on things to believe in and strive for. In short, the commitment has paid off, spurring an unmatched level of support from Baylor Nation.
“The difference with the program now is the minds of recruits being sold,” Baker said. “I was one that was sold on hope and vision. Now, there’s reality and there’s product. You can come see the Heisman. You can see the Big 12 championship trophy. You can see our bowl trophies and when you drive into Waco, you’re going to see that stadium. It’s actually here and it’s happening. That’s why [Briles] went with ‘Be The Standard’ because we’re going to keep going. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Briles’s convincing skills did the job on Baker, as it did on many of the other players that had Baylor fans chanting and cheering their lungs out at Floyd Casey Stadium the last couple seasons. There is no doubt the past few years have been the wildest, most exciting time to be a fan of the Baylor Bears, but Briles has every intention of making Baylor football a program not just about those few glory years.
“We’ve got what we’ve got. Now we’ve got to be the best at it,” Briles said. “If you can be the best, then be the best every time as a university, as a fan base and as a team. They’ve given us the best. Now we need to take full advantage and responsibility of it.”