It isn’t every day that a national high school player of the year comes to play football at an NAIA school, but that is what happened when former University of Southern California running back Dillon Baxter signed with Baker University on April 29.
“I think one of the main things that made me decide to go to Baker was ... well, first of all, the main part of being able to play this year since (Baker) is a NAIA school,” Baxter said. “Then one of my coaches from (the San Diego area) hooked me up with (Baker head coach Mike Grossner). I guess a lot of people from Mission Bay, my high school, went down to Baker and played some football, too.”
After leaving the University of Southern California and being dismissed from San Diego State University, Baxter said Grossner convinced him a change of scenery to Baldwin City would benefit him.
“Being away from home is definitely going to be different, but I think it will be for the best,” Baxter said. “It will definitely help me concentrate on training and just football all around and definitely school.”
Baxter committed to USC as a freshman out of high school, but his time as a Trojan was short-lived.
In 2010, Baxter played 10 games for Southern California, rushing for 252 yards and a touchdown.
To begin his sophomore season, Baxter was suspended for USC’s opener against the University of Hawaii for violating team rules. Baxter suited up for a four games in 2011 before USC head coach Lane Kiffin declared that Baxter was no longer a member of the team so he could focus solely on academics.
SDSU gave the San Diego native a second chance, but Baxter was dismissed from the program in February by head coach Rocky Long for “a variety of things,” according to a report from USA Today.
Since Baxter was not enrolled in school after being dismissed for San Diego State during the spring semester, Grossner sent Baxter to Hutchinson Community College and Western Oklahoma State College to classes before coming to Baker to remain academically eligible.
“I asked him in a short time period to get enrolled in a full-time schedule, and they were good classes,” Grossner said. “They were (Psychology) 101, (Sociology) 101, you name it. He’s done fantastic in that area, and he’s completed all of his courses. That was another reassurance for him and I that he is very capable and that he is on a mission to be great.”
While Baxter mainly spent time as a running back at USC, Grossner plans to incorporate him into the offense in a number of ways.
“I want the ball in his hands,” Grossner said. “My dream as the head football coach is to see him touch (the football) 25 to 30 times a game, and I don’t care how that happens, but I want it to happen. Kick returns, punt returns, reverses ... he has a great ability to throw the football.”
Junior quarterback Jake Morse is also excited about adding Baxter to the Wildcats’ offensive schemes.
“We feel like if he comes in and learns, that he’s going to chill well with the rest of the team and be an impact player for us,” Morse said.
Grossner does not expect Baxter to report for summer workouts, but he plans to have him come to Baldwin City for a week in the middle of July to meet the rest of the team and to see Baker’s campus.
Baxter will have three years of eligibility left to play two seasons for the Wildcats.
“I haven’t really had a chance to show everything that I can do up in the college area so, you know, (I want to) play as much as I can,” Baxter said. “Hopefully, maybe I can break some records while I’m down there and, you know, I don’t know, maybe go through an undefeated season and win a championship.”