After more than seven years in prison, Robert Baker is enjoying the buildup to this week’s NFL draft. Budda Baker, the Huskies' star safety, is a potential late first-round draft pick.

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Guys at work like to joke around with Robert Baker.

“Hey man,” they’ve been saying lately. “Why are you working so hard when your brother is going to the NFL?”

Robert shakes his head. “He’s going to the NFL — I’m not,” he shoots back. “I have to work.”

After spending seven years and two months in prison for first-degree robbery, Robert insists he isn’t taking for granted his new lease on life. And after missing out on so many seminal moments in his little brother’s football career — all those state championships Budda Baker won at Bellevue, his rise as an All-American at the University of Washington — Robert is enjoying the buildup to this week’s NFL draft.

Big brother says he always saw this potential endgame for Budda.

“I knew for a fact when he was younger that he was going to be something special,” Robert, 28, says.

He was right. Budda, 21, perhaps the most versatile defensive back in the draft, is expected to be selected late in the first round Thursday night or early in the second round Friday.

“You know,” Robert says, “a lot of times I beat myself up about what happened, but I don’t sit here and go, ‘What if?’ I’ve stayed focused. At the end of the day, I look at him and I’m just very thankful. I don’t try to make my situation abut my brother, but he’s learned and he’s seen what to do and what not to do because of what I went through.”

Almost immediately after his release from prison last fall, Robert got a job busing tables at a downtown Bellevue restaurant. After seven months on the job, he proudly noted he promoted to server — “which usually takes about a year and a half,” he says.

“Now,” he adds with a laugh, “I tell my boss I’m trying to be the manager. I work , I grind, do what I gotta do.”

The Bakers are planning a draft party for family and friends Thursday, and Budda says he has a pretty good feeling he could go late in the first round. John Ross III and Kevin King are generally projected to go sometime in the first round too, and if that comes to fruition it would be just the second time in program history that three Huskies are selected in the same first round (joining Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters and Shaq Thompson in 2015).

Budda is mostly looking forward to having the uncertainty of the draft process over with.

“I’ve enjoyed it all,” he says, “but it’s definitely stressful. … For me, it’s a matter of getting my foot in the door. I know I’m going to get chosen; it’s just a matter of who and where.”

The one knock against Budda is his size. He was measured at 5-feet-10 and 195 pounds at the NFL combine.

“If Baker were bigger,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. writes, “I think he’d be a top-15 pick, but his 5-10 frame will scare off a few teams.”

To which Budda has one retort: Watch the film.

A starter from the moment he stepped on campus in 2014 — he missed only one game in his three-year UW career, against Cal in 2015, when he had a concussion — Budda played all over in the Huskies’ secondary. A natural free safety, he also played strong safety and, as the 2016 progressed, he moved closer to the line of scrimmage, typically lining up as the Huskies’ nickelback — a spot that made it easier for him to blitz off the edge.

“The film shows you everything,” Budda says.

Budda could be a tempting option for the Seahawks, who own the 26th pick. A tattoo of the Space Needle spans the length of the inside of Budda’s right forearm, and he would love the chance to stay close to his family in Bellevue, and to continue to reconnect with Robert after so many years apart.

“It’s kind of crazy, because my brother is so humble,” Robert says. “So anytime he’s going through something that might make him nervous, or a big moment in life, you can never tell. He’s good at masking his feelings.

“These last couple months, I’ve been able to see a lot about him — how humble he is, how much he’s growing, how focused he is. To finally be home and experience, it’s just been amazing.”