Michael Jordan and Michael (Mike) Baab share more than just a first name. Coaches rejected both athletes early in their careers. But like Jordan, Baab received a second chance and parlayed that opportunity into a spot in the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
As a seventh grader in the early 70s, Baab tried out for the Euless junior high football squad. Following a bevy of drills, coaches decided the youngster didn’t have the right stuff. That moment has been burned indelibly into Baab’s memory.
“There were maybe 120 of us in the worst fitting uniforms in the world trying to learn how to play football,” he told the Waco Tribune Herald. “I didn’t do that great, I can tell you that, because I was cut and sent home.”
However, an unexpected twist of fate provided the seventh grader another opportunity. A player suffered an injury, and the junior high coaches called Baab’s parents asking if he would play center.
“Who knew that if that didn’t happen to that poor kid, I would have never played football,” he commented to the Trib.
Baab proved to be a quick study. In high school, he served as the mainstay of the Euless offensive line. As a senior in 1977, he won first-team all-state honors despite playing for a team that went 4-5-1.
“I really didn’t start getting recruited until I started getting some honors and stuff like that,” he stated to the Trib. “But in my senior year, I got a letter from about every college in the United States.”
The Texas Longhorns garnered Baab’s attention not only because of the school’s winning tradition but also the presence of Earl Campbell. Watching the Heisman Trophy running back made it clear Austin served as the epicenter of gridiron greatness.
“All of a sudden, Texas exploded onto my screen,” he remarked to the Trib. “So I decided that my parents had spent a lot of money taking care of me and feeding me that I needed to stay in Texas where they could come watch me and play in the Southwest Conference.”
Baab spent two years at guard before moving to center as a junior and senior. In his final season, he won first-team All-SWC honors and second-team All-American.
That year, the Longhorns upset No. 3 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl and finished second in the nation. During Baab’s four-year tenure, Texas compiled a 35-12-1 record.
The Cleveland Browns selected the center in the fifth round of the 1982 NFL draft. Baab spent 11 seasons in the pro with the Browns, Patriots, and Chiefs before retiring in 1992. He played in the AFC championship game with Cleveland in 1986 and 1987.
Baab currently works as a personal trainer and recalls his high school days with fond memories.
“I was fortunate to get on a great football team where everyone in the town loved and went crazy on Friday nights,” he told the Trib. “How can you beat that?”