All Tyler Baker wanted was a chance to compete.
And in order to do so, the Lockport native always gambled on himself. Chasing the dream to play football in college had been Baker’s life-long goal since first playing for Lockport Little Loop as a 5-year-old.
After a three-year career that featured accounting for 6,343 passing yards and 64 touchdowns and winning the 2019 Catholic High School Athletic Association state championship for Canisius High School, Baker had originally committed to the University of Rhode Island late in his senior year. There was interest from schools like Monmouth and Robert Morris, too, but Baker found a deep interest in Rhode Island’s business program and offensive scheme.
But then he received a late phone call from Navy and Baker decommitted from the Rams in February 2022 and signed with the Midshipmen. After playing for the Naval Academy Prep School, Baker thought he would have a chance to compete for the Navy quarterback job going into the 2023 season.
But Baker started the season last out of nine quarterbacks on Navy’s depth chart under first-year head coach Brian Newberry. As the season progressed, Baker moved up to fourth, but couldn’t get any higher. Pursuing his business career instead of a career in the Navy and a love to compete pushed Baker to enter the transfer portal on Dec. 14 and back to Rhode Island.
Baker made the official announcement Friday and the weight surrounding his next move came off his shoulders, knowing he was going back to a school that knew him best.
“They’ve always had confidence in me as a player,” Baker said. “So, it shows a lot that after I originally decommitted that they still want me, so, it’s pretty cool. … I believe I can go there and be the starter realistically. So, that’s what I’m going to do, whatever it takes to go there and win the job.”
Like his recruiting process in high school, Baker kept his options open once he entered the transfer portal. Baker had discussions with Merrimack, Lafayette, Morehead State, Wagner, Albany and Buffalo. But when he entered the portal in mid-December, Baker couldn’t visit due to the holiday break and needed to finish paperwork to leave the academy.
The familiarity with the Rams was still intact, Baker said, because of the coaching staff. Not only was Jim Fleming still the head coach, now entering his 11th season, but Patrick Murphy was still the Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Murphy had joined Rhode Island’s coaching staff as offensive coordinator in January 2020, and one year ago, oversaw a unit that scored 42 touchdowns and finished 21st in the country in yards per game (418.1) during the Rams’ 6-5 finish in Coastal Athletic Association and FCS play. As an initial recruit, Baker said he had a strong connection with Murphy over different formations and how the coach liked running a quarterback-driven offense in the air and on the ground.
Baker felt, before he committed for Navy, he was built for Rhode Island’s offense, and, had he stayed, he would have a shot to succeed Kasim Hill, who became the program’s all-time leader in total yards (8,863) in November. Knowing Murphy’s approach hadn’t changed made Baker’s decision to return to Kingston an easier one.
Baker knows it’s an open competition for the starting job and has some ground to catch up with the returnees in Rhode Island’s quarterback room. But, his confidence in his dual-threat abilities hasn’t wavered as, with the game on the line, he loves having the ball in his hands.
It’s a mentality for Baker since he helped Canisius erase a 14-point deficit and convert the game-winning 2-point conversion with two minutes left against Cardinal Haynes in the CHSAA state title game, a 25-24 win, five years ago as a sophomore.
“Even here at (the Naval prep school), when we had games and there was two minutes left, I felt like the best opportunity to go on the field and score was (with) the ball in my hands,” Baker said. “I love being able to be the guy that can get my teammates the ball (to) make plays. I love being the guy that can make plays with his legs when stuff breaks down.”
Though he’s leaving, Baker said his time in the Navy was not a failure. Baker gained physical and mental strength from experiencing boot camp twice and was a scout team quarterback for the Midshipmen. Replicating the offensive playbooks for Notre Dame, SMU and Memphis only expanded his knowledge of the game.
Baker said Navy is where he found his love for business and co-owns an athletic apparel brand called DimeFitt, connecting with NIL athletes across the country. Creating the brand, Baker said, helped him persevere through the challenges related to football.
“I wouldn’t have learned that if I didn’t go to the Naval Academy,” Baker said. “I don’t think I would have found (DimeFitt) while I was going through tough times. That’s where I found this, so, I would always tell myself, ‘Keep going.’ I would tell my younger self, just keep pushing through (and) you’re going to find success to keep going.”
All Tyler Baker wanted was a chance to compete.