After missing two of his five years at NC State due to injury, senior running back Toney Baker announced Tuesday that he will forego his NCAA-granted sixth year of eligibility and enter the 2010 NFL Draft in April.
For Baker, who finished 2009 with a career-best 773 yards on 160 carries, the decision to pass up a sixth year and make the jump to the NFL was one that made sense based on several factors.
“Well really I feel like I had a pretty good year and my Dad had a really big part of it,” Baker said of the decision. “He told me he thought it was a good time to try and after waiting and hearing all the information from the NFL I think that was the best decision for me.”
Baker said the information he received from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which advises college players interested in declaring for the draft, was all he needed to hear when making his decision about whether to come back for his sixth year.
“I put in with them. They told me it was classified information so I can’t really go into that but the information was good enough for me to decide to come out,” he said. “They couldn’t get too specific and they didn’t want me to talk about it, but it was good enough for me to come out.”
The decision-making process began following the Nov. 28 contest against Carolina, but came to a peak during mid-December, Baker said.
“In December I was really thinking about coming out. Towards the end of December, mid-December I was making my mind up on it,” he said. “I talked to Coach O’Brien and after that I felt like it was time.”
In a statement released from the Media Relations department Tuesday, Tom O’Brien said he fully supports Baker’s decision to leave early. Baker said O’Brien was very important while he wad making his decision.
“He sat back and told me he could understand me leaving and he would be behind me either way,” he said. “I’m really thankful he did that."
Baker finished his injury-shortened career with the Wolfpack with just over 2,000 yards rushing and 17 rushing touchdowns. He also hauled in 65 receptions – 28 during his senior season – for 676 yards and four touchdowns. The Jamestown, North Carolina native said he would remember his time in Raleigh fondly.
“Everything from the academics all the way up to the football program and the fans,” he said. “The support they gave me when I was out for two years. The people around here are special, and I really enjoyed my time here.
"I’ve been through two coaching staffs here, and I think both of them did really well and had my best interests at heart."
Baker did say that he thought about the potential of getting hurt again if he returned for a sixth year, but said it wasn’t a crucial part of his overall decision.
“You can’t really control injuries, but I guess you could say that was part of it,” he said. “Coming back next year there is a lot of things that could happen. I could have a really good season, but I personally feel like it’s time for me to go. I was just thinking about the fact that I have my degree, I had three pretty good years here at N.C. State, and I just feel like it’s time.”