Deandre Baker received the Paycom Jim Thorpe award for being the nation’s top defensive back Thursday evening. He is the first Bulldog to win the award in the 33 seasons it has been presented. The Miami, Florida native found out he won during the ESPN College Football Award show at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Baker beat out LSU’s Greedy Williams and Notre Dame’s Julian Love, who were the other two finalists. The only other finalist from the University of Georgia was Champ Bailey in 1998.
The Miami, Florida native was included on the 2018 Walter Camp All-America Team, giving Georgia two players on the First Team in the last two seasons. Roquan Smith was on this team in 2017. Baker became the first Bulldog All-American from the secondary since Bacarri Rambo in 2011. He was also the first Georgia defensive back to receive the Walter Camp designation since Greg Blue and Thomas Davis garnered the honor back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.
This season, he has 40 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Baker also has the team-best 10 pass break-ups. He also forced a fumble and has one fumble recovery on the year. Baker was a key component to a defense that ranks No. 15 in the nation allowing just 18.5 points a game.
In the last two seasons, Baker started 27 of 28 games. Since arriving to Georgia, he played in 51 games. During his time at Georgia, he has accumulated 116 total tackles, 83 of them being solo tackles. He has 4 tackles for a loss, one sack, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. However, his most telling statistic could be the 31 pass-breakups during his time at Georgia.
Baker continuously draws the best receiver on the other team and shutting them down. He has managed to shut down Deebo Samuel, from South Carolina, Van Jefferson from Florida, Emanuel Hall from Missouri, and Kalija Lipscomb from Vanderbilt. In the SEC Championship game this year, Jerry Jeudy only caught three passes for 24 yards with Baker being his primary defender. In fact, he hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the Liberty Bowl game against TCU in 2016.
Despite some of his other counterparts announcing they wouldn’t play in their teams bowl games, Baker elected to play in the Sugar Bowl on January 1. Baker will be honored at a Thorpe Award banquet in Oklahoma City on Feb. 5, 2019.
The No. 5 Bulldogs (11-2) will take on No. 15 Texas (9-4) in the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La., on Jan. 1 at 8:45 p.m. ESPN will televise the game and it will be the fifth all-time matchup between both programs and the first since 1984.