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Blountstown’s Ryan Baker prepares for the game of his life as LSU and Alabama battle for the BCS title

Blountstown’s Ryan Baker is gearing up for the game of his life. The senior at Louisiana State University has been a defensive leader for the Tigers throughout his college career. Come Monday night, all eyes will be on him and his teammates as they take on Alabama in a rematch for the BCS Championship. This time, the Bama boys will come to New Orleans for the showdown set to air on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. CT. When Ryan Baker stepped on the LSU campus four years ago, his dream was to graduate with a national title ring. “That was my goal when I originally signed here,” he tells The County Record. “This is one of the most prestigious universities around…this is my senior year and I’m finally getting that chance to play for a national title.” The entire 2011 season has clicked for the Tigers who remain undefeated. As for the secret to his team’s success, Baker says it’s simple: Hard work. “We bring that approach daily,” he points out. “We’re not the biggest of guys and we’re not the fastest of guys, but we’re the most hard working. I don’t think anybody in this country can out work us.” Back home in Calhoun County, Baker learned that lesson playing high school football for the Blountstown Tigers. “My greatest influences were my high school coaches,” he remarks. “Coach [Bobby] Johns and Coach [Greg] Jordan were early in their careers and they were hard guys. They were young guys and trying to instill their techniques. We learned winning came with a price. You had to put forth this hard work to get what you wanted. Both guys really believed in that.” Playing on the college level, Baker has also been inspired by Coach Les Miles. “The most important thing about Coach Miles people don’t realize is his relationship with his players and coaches,” says Baker, noting Miles takes the time to get to know them individually. As he gears up for the big game in New Orleans, Baker says he is working to get his mind focused. “My biggest challenge will be to block out the national championship factor and the celebrations that come with that. Football is not a problem.” When LSU faced Alabama earlier this season in Tuscaloosa, fans were on the edge of their seats for four quarters and then some. Baker led the Tigers in tackles as they captured the 9-6 win in overtime. He expects another scrappy game come Monday night. “I think they’re going to run the ball with Heisman trophy finalist Trent Richardson and it’s going to be a man on man, hard fought game.” Once the championship is over and the dust has settled, Baker says he will take the future one step at a time. “I’m going to go about it on a daily approach,” he remarks. “I want to graduate and get my diploma.” Baker, who is majoring in kinesiology, will also be training hard, preparing for a showcase and his chance to take his game to the next level – the NFL. “Everybody has a dream and once I started this, I knew I wanted to play for the NFL one day.”

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