Longhorn legends: Football Hall of Honor inductee Mike Baab
Oct. 29, 2008
Andy Ortegon, Texas Media Relations
Former All-Southwest Conference center Mike Baab grasped the current Longhorns’ football motto “Consistently good to be great” 30 years ahead of schedule. He never had a goal of getting into the Longhorn Hall of Honor, but through hard work and achieving momentous accomplishments while working toward the goals he set, the prestigious membership in the Hall will be bestowed upon him in November.
A letterman at Texas from 1978 to 1981, Baab was voted team captain for the Longhorns as a senior. That year, he helped Texas post a 10-1-1 record, including a 14-12 upset of then-No. 3 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, en route to second-team All-America honors.
However, if you asked him back then whether or not he aspired one day to be inducted into the Hall of Honor, the answer would have surprised you.
“Of course today, I see the bigger picture and really recognize how great an honor this truly is,” Baab continued. “Looking back now, and honestly, even before you ever decide to come to UT, you realize the history of this University is what attracts you to it. The men inducted into the Hall of Honor and their accomplishments were all a part of how Texas went from a small establishment, way back when, to grow into the huge world-class institution it is today.”
For claiming to never pay much real attention to those in the Hall of Honor, Baab shared their aim to be the best in all areas of his life. It was that aim that brought him to UT in the first place.
“What drew me to UT was that I wanted to be the best I could, and Texas offered the best in athletics and academics,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be a High School All-American and therefore blessed to have the opportunity to get into almost any school I wanted.
“I remember coming for my recruiting trip. I met Coach Akers, saw everybody and was brought around by a guy named Lance Taylor, who was an All-American middle linebacker and a great guy overall. I just realized that The University of Texas had the best team, best coach and the best academic program. It was the best school. It took no contemplating at all and so I made the call and said, ‘Ok, save me a spot.’”
Reflecting on his time on the Forty Acres, Baab attributes his college experience to affording him some of the greatest memories of his life.
“During my time at UT, the football team was doing better than ever before, the city was so alive and it seemed everyone and everything was covered in burnt orange,” Baab described. “Within a month-and-a-half or so of being here, I met my wife. To me, the whole experience was incredible. We went to championship games. I made lifelong friends I still talk to today, and I got to be part of something that was so much bigger than myself, something historical.”
His mark on history wouldn’t end there however. After college, Baab went on to a long career in the NFL, playing 149 games over 11 seasons, including eight with the Cleveland Browns (1982-87 and 1990-91), where he earned the nickname “The Baabarian” and was featured in the film Masters of the Gridiron.
He also spent two years with the New England Patriots (1988-89) and one with the Kansas City Chiefs (1992).
“At the time when I was drafted, centers often weighed roughly 250 pounds and you would have a 280 pound nose guard right in front of you. That was a perfect time for me because I was considered a ‘big center’ at 6’4” and 275 pounds. I was traded to New England where I played for a couple years, then came back and played for the Browns again. Finally I retired, which, for most of us, means that I got cut,” he said laughing. “Then my old coach Marty Schottenheimer pulled me out of retirement, and I finished my last four games in 1992 with the Kansas City Chiefs. The NFL was a tremendous experience. Being a Cleveland Brown was just simply the best job you could have in the world.”
Baab’s football career may have ended in 1993, but today he still remains physically active. Right after retiring from football, Baab started competing in the Scottish Highland Games competitions, a sport celebrating Scottish culture that involves competition through heavy lifting and throwing events. In 2005, he won the Masters World Championship in the 45-49 age group. Today, Baab manages a car dealership here in Austin.
“You realize that you are not just playing football. It was fun in high school, worrying about the little things like whether or not you’ll get to kiss the head cheerleader and other childish nonsense. But when you hit college level, if you take it all seriously, get your education and keep yourself out of trouble, then The University of Texas can take you from a 19 year old kid to an individual who can literally go out and change the world. ‘Carpe Diem’ while you’re here at UT, with all the opportunities it affords you. Seize the moment, seize the day, put your nose to the grindstone and you can absolutely turn out to be someone great.”