Alumni generate talk of Baker during NFL playoffs

Story by Kyle Davis

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Baker head football coach Mike Grossner sent Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy a congratulatory text after the Packers’ Jan. 23 win over Chicago to send the team to Super Bowl XLV.

Grossner sends his friend, and former college teammate at Scottsdale Community College, a text after every Packers game; the two still finding time to converse with their busy schedules.

McCarthy’s schedule has increased in the past two weeks, with media outlets and fans alike wanting to learn more about the Packers’ coach.

While McCarthy is from Pittsburgh, and will face his hometown Steelers in the biggest game of his career, the place he has been associated with countless times over the past two weeks is Baker University.

“He hasn’t shied away at all,” Grossner said. “He’s been very close to certain people around here and stayed in touch and I think he’ll always be that way.”

Former Athletic Director Dan Harris has also had a busy two weeks, taking calls for interviews from the New York Times, USA Today, ESPN and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few.

The name that keeps coming up is Baker University.

“I think it’s going to impact recruiting, it’s going to impact people’s awareness of Baker University,” Harris said.

McCarthy’s association with Baker has lasted much longer than the two years he spent as a tight end with venus flytraps for hands, who was the red zone threat on every possession for the Wildcat football team.

McCarthy represents Baker’s tradition. Playing for coach Charlie Richard in the 1980s and entering Baker’s Hall of Fame in 2007, 20 years after his graduation.

“I just can’t be more proud of the guy,” Harris said. “He deserves all of this. He’s just an amazing person.”

Baker alumnus Tanner Purdum represents the present.

Purdum graduated from Baker in 2007 and continued to work and keep his dream alive until the New York Jets gave him a chance. Purdum made the most of his chance, knowing his job could be over any week, and rose to the challenge to find himself one game away from the Super Bowl.

“I watched a majority of their games and I did not see one bad snap,” Grossner said. “So, from that standpoint, I think he solidified himself as an NFL player.”

Both former Wildcats continue to make their presence felt at Baker; McCarthy and the Packers donating $100,000 a year for the past three years to the Baker football program and Purdum returning to Baker to work and lift with the Baker football players after being a coach for the Wildcats after graduation.

“It’s a great thing for me,” Purdum said about returning to Baker. “Being a coach, it’s just natural to me. It’s really fun and especially being able to come back to Baker, somewhere I’m comfortable and put so much time in and had such a great experience.”

The buzz and support from members of the Baker community has been large, from alumni sending e-mails, to students and faculty signing congratulatory cards to send to both McCarthy and Purdum.

McCarthy showed his gratitude for Harris during a brief phone conversation Jan. 25 when McCarthy told Harris he had two tickets to the Super Bowl for Harris and his wife, Peggy. Harris has never been to a Super Bowl and had to pull over to the side of the road and collect himself after hearing the news while driving to Lawrence.

McCarthy will take the field Sunday, representing not only the Packers, but also Baker University, and both Grossner and Harris will be watching, waiting to send their friend a text after the game.

“Either way there will be a text,” Grossner said, “but hopefully it’s how proud we are of him.”