Already a top football recruit in the Class of 2014, Bellevue's sophomore sprinter is fast becoming one of the state's best in track and field.
BELLEVUE — As Bishard Baker sprinted toward the finish line, someone shouted, “Get ’em, Budda! Get ’em, Budda!”
After winning the 100 meters at a recent track meet, Bellevue’s sophomore standout jogged over to compete in the long jump.
“Let’s go, Budda!” someone else shouted as Baker won his second event.
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Wherever Baker went on the track, shouts of “Budda” followed. He has been going by his childhood moniker for so long, it is the only name most people know.
While some might not know Bishard, everyone knows Budda.
After developing into one of Bellevue’s top two-way football players in the fall and putting up marks that rank him among the state’s top track and field athletes, Baker has set a lofty standard — catching the attention of Division I coaches.
“If you’re not a college recruiting him, you’re missing out, because he’s the real deal,” said Wolverines junior Myles Jack, another touted football prospect and Baker’s teammate in both sports. “He’s doubling what I’m doing. He’s way faster than I was, way stronger than I was. He does it all. He’s the full package.”
And that nickname? When Baker was born, his mother, Michelle, thought he looked like a “little Buddha doll.”
The name stuck — minus the H.
“It’s my name now,” he said. “I don’t really like being called Bishard.”
Baker, one of six children raised by Michelle, has always shared a special bond with his mother, who struggles with a variety of health issues, including Chron’s, colitis and fibromyalgia.
“I’m very sick and I’m in the hospital most of the time,” Michelle said. “Actually, I just got out. Budda is just a lovable, caring young man. He’s grown up to be a wonderful man. I feel that I’m blessed.”
In addition to getting his work done in the classroom, the football field and the track, Baker does whatever he can to help his mother.
“I know she doesn’t want me to think this, but I think it’s more important than school,” said the soft-spoken Baker, who does well in the classroom. “I want to take care of my mom. I don’t want to see her go away.”
Baker already has football scholarship offers from UCLA and Washington. He wants to eventually support his mother financially.
“It pushes me every last minute,” he said. “Sometimes I want to stop. I just think of her and it makes me go harder and harder.”
By the end of football season, Baker’s combination of speed, strength and fearlessness placed him among the state’s top defense backs. Also a talented kick returner and running back, he already ranks among the state’s top recruits in the 2014 class.
Bellevue track and field coach John Hill believes the 5-foot-10 sprinter has the talent to be great on the track, too.
“He’s a real-deal track and field athlete,” Hill said. “None of this is necessarily surprising, but it’s always exciting to see what he can do. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s pretty clear. He’s got that down pat when it comes to athletics in general.”
Baker’s main events are the 100, 200, long jump and 400 relay. So far this season he has the sixth-fastest time in Class 3A in the 200 (22.55), the third-best mark in the long jump (21-11 ¼) and runs the second leg of the third-fastest 400 relay (43.45) in the state, regardless of classification.
“I wouldn’t put it past him to be right up there at the top of any list that Bellevue High School has to offer,” Hill said. “And then, in the big picture of the state of Washington, well, there are some really awesome names up there. But if he puts down goals in that arena as much as he has for football, he’ll see some payoff in that regard, too.”
A tattoo on Baker’s right shoulder reads, “Each day is not promised.”
Whether he is returning kickoffs 89 yards for a touchdown as he did in the state-title game, winning track events or taking care of his mother, Baker is trying to squeeze as much as he can out of every opportunity.
“You have to cherish each day,” he said. “You might as well just live it up.”
Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org