ASHLAND — It is no exaggeration to say that Al Baker was one of the most trumpeted football prospects Kentucky has ever had.
In the mid-1980s, long before Twitter and dot.coms existed to provide recuiting hype and hysteria, Baker was a nationally touted running back at Trigg County. A state sprint champ and state weight-lifting champ, the 6-foot, 225-pound Baker was a fascinating combination of speed and power.
People compared him to Herschel Walker, and his college suitors included Alabama, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and UCLA, as well as Kentucky and Louisville.
Baker signed with UK, and he capped his career by rushing for more than 1,000 yards his senior season.
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Baker was back on the UK campus last summer with his son Quinton, who was attending a camp before his sophomore year at Ashland Blazer. Al was with his son when the UK coaches offered him a scholarship.
Dad didn't quite know what to make of it.
"I guess I'm telling my age, but I didn't know it was a big deal for a school to offer you," Al said. "Back when I was going through it, no one actually said, 'Hey, we're going to offer you.' When they talked to you, it was kind of assumed they wanted you to play for them.
"It was nothing like it is now, with everybody talking about who's getting offers. But we didn't have all this social media then, so everything's different now."
That said, Al Baker thinks it's "pretty cool" that UK wants his son. But he's quick to add that Quinton has two more years of high school and it's way too early to be daydreaming about college.
Quinton, a smart kid (3.78 GPA) who doesn't get starry-eyed in the spotlight, said he was "really surprised" by UK's offer. "Me and my family are grateful. It's a blessing. I wasn't expecting it at all, but I'm thankful for it."
The family is already getting peppered with questions about whether Quinton will end up at UK.
"He's got two more years of high school," Al said. "A lot of things can happen."
Quinton is a completely different kind of running back than his dad was.
"He doesn't have the power I had," Al said. "Quinton's only about 5-9, 180 pounds. He's got great feet and quickness. He can see holes I could never see. I was fast, but I could only go straight. He's able to go sideways."
Quinton has seen film clips of his dad playing football and running track, and he's heard stories about him.
"He hasn't told me much himself. He's a real humble guy," Quinton said. "But I've heard he used to be a truck. He was like tackling a four-wheeler at full speed. It was lethal trying to tackle him.
"I think I'm a little quicker than he was back in the day."
Al, who is cultural diversity director at Ashland Community and Technical College, helps coach the Tomcats' freshman team. He's a father, not a coach, on Friday nights when the varsity plays.
Quinton rushed for 932 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman, and bumped up those numbers to 1,607 yards and 17 TDs as a sophomore. In three games this season he has 514 yards and seven TDs. Quinton is on pace to eclipse his dad's high school rushing total of 5,396 yards.
He'd also like to challenge his dad's best time (10.7) in the 100-meter dash by the time he graduates.
Al Baker hasn't coached his son since he was in middle school, but he shares his football wisdom with him.
"One thing I've told him is that without blocking, you're just an average back. He knows that now. He knows how important it is for him to have those guys up front."
Ashland Blazer Coach Tony Love has seen Quinton grow as a player and a person.
"In a scrimmage his freshman year, he kept getting tackled at the line of scrimmage and he got frustrated with the offensive line," Love said. "He's really matured since then. Now he realizes he's not going to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball. Now he realizes the value of the people around him and how they'll help him be successful."
As for Quinton's talent, Love said it's obvious he's "genetically gifted. He's got speed and quickness, and his vision is at a pretty high level. And any great running back has great instincts. When you complement all that with a great work ethic, you have something pretty special."
Being the son of a famous athlete can be a burden, but it's lighter on Quinton because he's playing football and running track 300 miles from Cadiz, where his dad was a high school hero.
Al, whose wife, Nikki, is from Ashland, said a lot of people in the area aren't that familiar with his sports background. He thinks that's a good thing for Quinton.
"I did what I did a long time ago," he said. "It's his time now. I want him to keep a level head, stay focused and do his thing."