TACOMA, Wash. -- Bishard “Budda” Baker bounced from hug to hug wearing a blue hat with BELLEVUE written in big block-yellow letters.
The hat matched the gaudy gold chain that dangled around his neck. After Bellevue (Wash.)’s 35-3 victory over Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic in the Class 3A state title game Friday, Baker held up the chain, which featured 10 state championship rings like charms on a necklace.
Each person he passed wanted to examine the rings, one for each of the state championships the school won prior to 2012. Thanks in large part to Baker’s prime-time performance, the Wolverines are adding another ring to the collection.
“I’m just thankful they gave it to me,” Baker said.
As happy as he was to wear it during the postgame celebration, though, he didn’t plan on keeping it long.
“I’m going to give it back,” he said, laughing. “I can’t trust myself with this.”
Playing in his second state title game, the ESPN Watch List member delivered early. The first time he touched the ball, he returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown.
“When I got that punt return, I was like ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to have a good game,’” he said.
The safety also picked off a pass and had 1.5 tackles for loss. On offense he scored a 61-yard rushing touchdown and finished with 93 yards on five carries.
“It means the world,” Baker said. “Even though this is my second ring, it still feels like the first one. It still feels just as good. I’m just grateful right now. I couldn’t have done it without the team. We’re just going to go celebrate and stay out of trouble.”
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound standout knows the recruiting process is about to begin in earnest as schools woo him for a chance to land his services. However, after leading the Wolverines to an undefeated season and a fifth straight state title, he was enjoying the moment, not thinking about his future.
“It’s the biggest game,” Baker said. “We beat Trinity, but we still had to finish. We’re just grateful we stayed undefeated and won this game.”