Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Lt. Col. Chay M. Derbigny will become commander and a professor of aerospace studies for Air Force ROTC Detachment 205 at 10 a.m. Friday, June 28, at Saluki Alumni Plaza, located between Woody and Pulliam halls on the SIU campus.
Murphysboro native named commander of SIU Air Force ROTC 
By Carly Gist, News Editor • July 15, 2024

Lt. Col. Chay M. Derbigny will soon take over as commander and professor of aerospace studies for Air Force ROTC Detachment 205 at Southern Illinois...

Marcus Domask (left) and Lance Jones (right) during a Purdue-Illinois game Jan. 5, 2024 at
Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo credit to Illinois Athletics.
Three Former Salukis set to play in NBA Summer League 
By Ryan Grieser, Sports Reporter • July 13, 2024

As the NBA 2K25 Summer League kicked off on July 12, three former Salukis began their professional basketball careers.  Though none of them...

SIU chancellor, Austin Lane, poses for a portrait in his office on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Anthony Hall at SIU.
SIU leadership gets bonuses, salary increases from Board of Trustees
By Carly Gist, News Editor • July 11, 2024

Three proposals received approval by the SIU Board of Trustees regarding salary increases for university officials at the July 11th meeting. The...

Record-Baker: Saluki quarterback’s journey from backup to all-time leader

Nic+Baker+warms+up+during+the+first+half+against+the+Murray+State+Racers+Oct.+14%2C+2023+at+Roy+Stewart+Stadium+in+Murray%2C+Kentucky.+Baker+broke+the+school+record+for+career+passing+yards+on+the+second+Saluki+drive+of+the+game.
Brandyn Wilcoxen
Nic Baker warms up during the first half against the Murray State Racers Oct. 14, 2023 at Roy Stewart Stadium in Murray, Kentucky. Baker broke the school record for career passing yards on the second Saluki drive of the game.

Senior quarterback Nic Baker continued his historic season on Saturday against the Murray State Racers by setting the Saluki record for career passing yards, with 8,004 and counting.

Baker surpassed the previous record of 7,894 yards held by Joel Sambursky after completing a pass to senior receiver Izaiah Hartrup on the second drive of Saturday’s game.

“Coach says a lot… consistency is a superpower.  I tend to think the same way, and just showing up everyday and doing the same thing, there’s really no other recipe to it.  That’s what I do, is just show up, try to get a little better every day,” Baker said.

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Baker has already been etching his name into the record books during his final season as the Salukis’ starter; he set the record for career completions on his second pass completion of the season opener against Austin Peay, and earned the record for career pass attempts on Sept. 16 against SEMO. Baker currently has 1,032 attempts and counting as of the end of the Murray State game.

In addition to owning the career completions and passing yards records, Baker has a good chance to set the career touchdowns record; his seven touchdowns on the season leave him only eight away from tying the record.

Baker also holds an outside chance at setting the marks for pass efficiency percentage and pass completion percentage, ranking within the top three and top four respectively heading into the 2023 season.

Baker has done more than just shine on the field; off the field, he’s shown growth in many aspects, especially in leadership among teammates.

Blake Rolan, SIU quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, said, “Definitely [seen him grow] a lot since five years ago… Doesn’t say a lot, but when he speaks, it means something.  He’s very passionate about competition.” 

According to Hartrup, a receiver who has played with Baker in 24 games across four different seasons, Baker’s leadership skills have also expanded.

“He’s become a lot more vocal over the years and really taking charge of the offense, and not just the offense, but the team in general,” Hartrup said.

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Jacob Garrett, a former teammate and roommate of Baker’s, personally watched him develop, though he thinks Baker’s always had an “it” factor.

“When we were freshman in practice, all the other guys were like, ‘Holy crap, who’s this kid?’  He was always just a gamer on the field.  You never felt like you were in a down situation.  In a game with you Nic at quarterback, you never felt like you were in a down situation,” Garrett said.

Baker thinks that he’s been able to achieve what he has because of his experience.

“Just getting better every year, taking my experience and using it to get better, and never getting too down,” Baker said. “Everybody makes mistakes.”

As he’s grown, Baker has begun to exhibit attributes similar to another noteworthy Saluki quarterback, many of whom’s records are in jeopardy: Joel Sambursky.

Sambursky, who was the quarterback predecessor to current Saluki head coach Nick Hill, starred at SIU from 2002-2005 and is a member of the Saluki Hall of Fame.  

Tom Weber, the senior associate athletic director of communications, has worked at SIU since 2001.  Having seen both Sambursky and Baker on the field, Weber thinks there are several similarities between the two.

“Personality wise, they’re both excellent leaders.  They’re guys that would rally the offense behind them at times, take them on their back,” Weber said.

Weber also noted the circumstances in which both entered the program.

“It was a rebuilding program for Jerry Kill when Joel Sambursky entered.  And likewise, our program was down a bit when Nic first came, and both have seen that; they both saw the lows, and now the highs of success,” Weber said.

It didn’t always seem like Baker would be the record-setting quarterback he is today.  He arrived at SIU in 2018 and redshirted his freshman year, played sparingly in 2019 and suffered a major foot injury in the 2020-21 season.

“He had a pretty freak accident,” Garrett said. “There was probably a week period where he didn’t know if he’d be able to really run again.”

Baker would return from his foot injury in time for the Fall 2021 season, and has started every game since.  Even though Baker is in his sixth season, made possible by a redshirt and a COVID eligibility year, he is still well down the list in career games; assuming he starts every remaining game of the regular season, he will still have only played in 41 games. Sambursky, whose records Baker is overwriting, played in 49.

To Garrett, there is no doubt that the extra years, even if he wasn’t racking up stats, were of benefit to Baker.

Garrett said, “I think his time he put in before he got to really play, I think, played a big role in him being where he is today.”

Even if he has been in the program for six years, Baker still treats every week the same.

“There’s a lot of ups and downs… you gotta reset, you gotta stay in the middle.  You just have to reset every week, and that’s what you have to do to play at your best.  You can’t get to the lows,” Baker said.

Baker’s relationship with the team has also played a big role in his success, which coincides with a lot of team success.

“Getting close with the team.  That’s why I play, why everybody plays,” Baker said.

Baker has also had many electric players around him.  Former teammates such as Garrett, Javon Williams Jr., Landon Lenoir and Avante Cox headline the list of skill players Baker has played with, Hartrup, D’Ante’ Cox, Ro Elliot and several others currently contribute to the 2023 Salukis and Baker’s continued success.

“It all starts with him, and the whole line too.  Just the whole team… it takes 11 guys to get yards, make plays, all that,” Hartrup said.

Garrett said, “He’s had some great pieces along with it… explosive athletes.”

Though Baker may have entered college as an underdog, many aren’t surprised that he’s achieved what he has.

“Having watched him from his freshman year, and he’s progressed all the way to now.  It’s just been fun to see him get better every year, and really just dominate now,” Weber said.

Plenty of opportunities remain for Baker to set more records and continue to cement his legacy as a Saluki all-time great.

“Super, super stoked for him, and definitely not surprised,” Garrett said.

Sports reporter Ryan Grieser can be reached at [email protected].  To stay up to date on all of your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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