Football now focus for Aliquippa standout Baldwin
Aliquippa senior Jonathan Baldwin grew up aspiring to play basketball in college and then in the NBA.
Up until four months ago, when he chose to pursue football instead of hoops, basketball was the dream for the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Baldwin, one of the country's premier multisport athletes.
But big-time offers in football, an invitation to the U.S. ARMY All-American Bowl and an epiphany while watching the NFL Draft changed the four-star wide receiver's future plans.
"It was this year after the (NFL) Draft and I decided I was going to go for football," Baldwin said. "If I had a good college career in football I think I probably had a better chance than if I played basketball.
"I always thought about the NBA, all the time. I never really thought about football, NFL football. I'd probably pick basketball (if I could go to pros in both), but I'm going for football so I got to love it," he said.
That doesn't mean, though, that Baldwin is settling for football. It's now his focus since he gave up AAU basketball this summer and lifted instead. Now, he runs stadium stairs or extra laps after practice and wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to start his day by doing 1,000 push-ups in an hour.
"I just stay focused," Baldwin said. "I was already a good student. I was working hard at my game. My mom and dad tell me to run extra laps after practice, run full sprints, make sure you finish first every time, don't let anybody beat you ... so I do what they say."
Baldwin narrowed his list of college choices to Florida, Pitt, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC and plans to announce on signing day, which is Feb. 6. Baldwin, whose favorite team is the New England Patriots and favorite player is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, doesn't have to look very far for motivation. Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Ty Law, Baldwin's cousin, and Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, both Aliquippa graduates, are an inspiration to Baldwin.
"I was the water boy for two weeks when (Revis was in) camp (at Aliquippa)," Baldwin said. "He was telling me I had potential and I could be a big-time player at Aliquippa in the years to come. He just told me to stay humble and be focused, just do what you have to do. Leave it all on the field."
Perhaps the man who has the biggest influence on Baldwin is his father, Jeff, who played defensive end at Aliquippa and Pitt. Jeff Baldwin takes a notepad with him to every one of his son's games, noting his flaws so they can work on them at home. More importantly, Jeff Baldwin makes sure his son lives up to his incredible athletic potential.
"It's a blessing, because some people aren't gifted to have that," Jonathan Baldwin said. "It always helps when you have somebody helping you with things like that. "He tells me, 'It just depends on how bad you want to do it. If you want to go to the NFL and you really work hard at it and you have the ability to, you just have to keep working at it,' and that's what I intend to do. I intend to go to college, have a good college career, and whatever happens after that happens."
Name: Jonathan Baldwin
Height/weight: 6-foot-6/225 pounds
Position: Wide receiver
College plans: Will choose from Florida, Pitt, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC.
Thought you should know: Baldwin is an MTV junky. He likes all the reality shows but particularly enjoys NEXT, Scarred and the Hills.