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-RONNIE LOTT

From Futbol to Football, Budda Baker was once a soccer prodigy

Washington defender Budda Baker warms up to face the WSU Cougars at the 108th Apple Cup at Husky Stadium on Friday, November 27, 2015, in Seattle, Wash.   (John Lok / The Seattle Times)

What is it about soccer and college football safeties?

There must be a connection when you consider Washington junior Budda Baker and Washington State senior Shalom Luani — two of the Pac-12’s best defensive backs who are among the headliners in Friday’s Apple Cup — received their athletic start playing futbol.

And both were considered young prodigies with bright futures.

“Soccer was my sport,” Baker said. “I was all into it. I felt like I was pretty good. Back then, I thought I’d grow up and play soccer overseas. For real.”

Baker, one of six children raised by his mom Michelle in Bellevue, was invited to play for a club team in Europe when he was 8.

“It was that serious,” he said. “But my mom wasn’t feeling it. She said no. … A few years later, I started playing football when I was 12 and that was pretty much it for soccer. But I still miss it.”

The low-key Baker, who became a touted football recruit, had kept his soccer exploits under wraps until recently.

“I did not know until just a little while ago,” UW co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said. “We have soccer balls out here for our kickers and one day I saw him moving around with a ball and it looked really natural. You can tell he has the footwork, the speed and the quickness.”

Lake attributes many of Baker’s football prowess to his previous sport.

“With the footwork for sure, and you can see how soccer would help him there,” Lake said. “The speed certainly, but mostly the sports overlap in terms of quickness and the agility with his feet. The change of direction. I think that helped for sure.

“If you not only learn, but master, those skills at an early age, it shows in our sport.

Continue reading here: Baker, Luani have moved from futbol to football

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