June 10, 2013

Rookie of the Year: Al Baker, 1978

Defensive End, Detroit Lions

Age: 22 (Dec. 9)
College: Colorado State
Height: 6’6”   Weight: 260

Al “Bubba” Baker was moved from the offensive line to defensive end in college, and quickly displayed his pass rushing prowess. He was taken in the second round of the 1978 NFL draft by the Lions and moved into the starting lineup.

1978 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 23 (unofficial)
Most sacks, game – 5 vs. Tampa Bay 11/12 (unofficial)
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
NFC Rookie of the Year: UPI, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly
1st team All-NFC: Pro Football Weekly
2nd team All-NFC: UPI
Pro Bowl

Lions went 7-9 to finish third in the NFC Central while placing second in the NFL in sacks (55).

Following up his outstanding rookie year, he solidified his reputation as possibly the best pure pass rusher in the NFL and leader of Detroit’s “Silver Rush” by unofficially accumulating 16 sacks in 1979, 18 in ’80, and 10 in 1981, a year in which he missed five games due to injury (sacks became an official statistic in 1982). He was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1979 and ’80 seasons. Following a strike-shortened 1982 season in which Baker was credited with 8.5 sacks in 9 games – thus giving him an unofficial total of 75.5 in 67 games for his Detroit career – he was dealt to the Cardinals just prior to the 1983 season, where he was reunited with defensive line coach Floyd Peters, who had molded the “Silver Rush”. He had an official career high of 13 sacks in ’83 and a total of 37.5 in four years with the Cards. Baker moved on to the Browns in 1987 and the Vikings in ’88, returning to Cleveland for his final two years. Officially, Baker retired with 65.5 sacks, but adding in the unofficial totals from his first and most productive years, the total was 132.5.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).