Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pack's Baker to seek sixth year

N.C. State running back Toney Baker plans to petition the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility after missing virtually all of the last two seasons with an injury to his right knee.

Baker is scheduled to be a fifth-year senior in 2009. Under ordinary circumstances, that would mean his college eligibility would expire after the season.

But the NCAA has been known to grant a sixth year in extreme cases where athletes’ careers have been significantly affected by injuries. In the 2007 season opener, Baker tore cartilage off the bone in his knee.

The cartilage was sent off to a lab to be “re-grown,” then attached to the knee again. Baker, who’s competing in spring practice now, tried to come back in the preseason in 2008 but said the knee wasn’t strong enough yet at that point.

“The thing they’re going to look at is my injury wasn’t a common injury,” Baker said Thursday. “It’s not something you see every day and just come back from. They’re going to really take that into consideration. To be honest, I don’t know what else they’re going to look at.”

One example locally of a player who received a sixth year from the NCAA is Brian Chacos, North Carolina’s starting left offensive tackle in 2006. He missed the 2001 and 2002 seasons because of various illnesses and injuries at the beginning of his career.

Baker also said that if he has a great season in 2009 he might enter the NFL draft in 2010. But by petitioning for the sixth season, he will try to keep his options open for the 2010 season with the Wolfpack.

He is a former Parade All-American who finished his high school career with a state-record 10,231 rushing yards at Jamestown Ragsdale. At N.C. State, Baker rushed for 546 yards in 2005 and 688 yards in 2006 before being injured in the 2007 opener. – Ken Tysiac