Youngstown, Ohio sits in the middle of the Rust Belt, near the Pennsylvania border, no closer to Cleveland than Pittsburgh. It's a blue-collar town filled with blue-collar people. Among them was Falcons safety Sean Baker, who grew up in the area and adopted that tough, never-say-die way of life that was so apparent in his surroundings.
Watching No. 29 in Friday night's win over the Miami Dolphins, you may have noticed a similar toughness making its way to the field. The thuds felt a little bit harder, the contact just a little more jarring — that's just a little taste of Youngstown in the NFL.
"That's just the way I was taught to play since I was little," Baker said after the win. "My hometown, Youngstown, Ohio, there's a lot of hard-nosed, blue-collar workers up there so I grew up in that frame of mind and just take it to the football field and play with a lot of passion."
It's evident on the practice fields during XFINITY® Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, as well. Hitting isn't live during most practices but it's tough to tell that when Baker gets the chance.
A practice squad addition to the Falcons during the middle point of the 2013 season, Baker knows that he's got to fight to show that he belongs with a team he's been with for almost a year but is really just now starting to feel a part of.
His first chance playing with his Falcons teammates came last Friday night when he played 47 percent of the defensive snaps and recorded three tackles in the winning effort. Baker was a part of the young defensive crew that helped seal the win as the Dolphins were threatening to go ahead late.
The Ball State product benefitted from a full offseason with the Falcons as he said OTAs were crucial to catching himself up after learning on the fly for most of 2013. It showed Friday night and, at a safety spot that certainly seems to be open for business in training camp, Baker is hoping to show a little bit more of what his blue-collar approach can do for the Falcons as the preseason continues.
"You always want a job come fall," he said. "It's a long six weeks, it's a long process but you have to have fun and enjoy it."