Chilliwack’s Baker Douglas is coming home.
The GW Graham grad, class of 2016, has committed to the junior Valley Huskers and will hit the field at Exhibition Stadium this summer.
Douglas returns to action after a year away from the game. He last laced ‘em up for the Midland University Warriors in 2016, kind of.
The 19 year old secured a scholarship to the Nebraska-based football program coming out of high school and was excited to represent the Warriors in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. But the receiver never got the chance.
Midland went super heavy in recruiting the summer before Douglas arrived, bringing 200+ scholarship and walk-on players to training camp, including 20+ receivers. He was buried so far down the depth chart that he was never even assigned a roster number, nor did he get practice reps in a frustrating season that came and went without Douglas dressing for a single regular season game.
Douglas wasn’t given the opportunity to compete, which is all he really wanted.
“I really liked the school side of things and I got a good deal in terms of a scholarship opportunity, but I feel I was promised things on the football side that weren’t necessarily true,” Douglas explained. “When it came down to it, I was largely unnoticed with not even a chance of playing time.
“When I met with my teammates and assessed my age group and skill level, I knew I could play at a second or third string capacity at the very least, but I didn’t even get that kind of sniff.”
When the 2016 season ended, he finished up classes at Midland and came home, not sure if he’d ever play football again.
“It became like business, like I was doing it for a job,” Douglas said. “Simply put, it was kind of unpleasant.”
Enter Bob Reist. The head coach of the Huskers has made it his mission to bring Chilliwack players into the Husker fold. For years they’ve gone everywhere else, committing to Husker rivals in Langley, Nanaimo, Kelowna and elsewhere. Reist started to reverse that trend last season, signing Michael Lengert, Marius Anghel, Jacob Penner, Ethan Stubbs and Devan Voss as part of his first recruiting class.
Douglas is the second player officially announced from this year’s recruiting class, following Winnipeg native Remis Tshiovo. There are other Chilliwack players coming, including at least one huge addition from the GW Graham Grizzlies that will be made public in the next two weeks.
“I am very interested excited to see Baker on the field. He brings an athletic skill set and a winning attitude to the program,” Reist said. “Baker is a big target and a very good route runner. His experience and determined approach should immediately impact our program.
“Baker is committed to coming home and being an impact player here in Chilliwack and we can’t wait to see what this home town product can do for us.”
Douglas said Reist connected with him in a way few coaches ever have.
He went into his first meeting with the Husker bench boss prepared to be underwhelmed and came away feeling excited and re-energized about playoff football.
“When I was going through high school, they (the Huskers) weren’t being talked about, and if they were being talked about it probably wasn’t in the best light,” Douglas admitted. “But Bob took the time to personally connect with me in a way that hasn’t happened with any other coaches, and that caused me to re-evaluate the opportunity.
“If he’d come to me and just offered me a position on the team, I probably wouldn’t have looked at it, but there was a connection that felt friendly and normal and paternal and unlike any connections I’ve had with previous coaches. He ignited a spark in me again and coming out of that meeting I was pretty determined to start working out and training more. And when you start doing that, you put your head in the right place.”
Douglas was part of back-to-back junior varsity provincial championship teams at GWG, and fits part of what Reist is trying to do with his recruiting. The coach wants to import players from winning programs as he strives to remake the Husker culture.
In his meeting with Douglas, Reist didn’t shy away from the Husker history or the 0-10 record in 2017. He owned it, which in itself was impressive, and laid out a plan to fix it.
Douglas has three years of eligibility in junior football and isn’t opposed to playing all three, if necessary. His goal is to use junior as a springboard to a U-Sports opportunity.
With a Husker receiving corps light on returnees, he feels he has a chance to make an instant impact on and off the field.
He’s been catching 200+ footballs a day from his rubber-armed dad, Sardis coach Sean Douglas.
“Bob didn’t guarantee me anything, other than I’ll be able to earn my spot, which is something I didn’t have at Midland,” Douglas said. “I want to earn my spot, I feel like I’m in good shape and I feel I didn’t lose any technique during my time away. Playing Canadian football rules, I’ll be able to sprint off the line and I won’t be seeing as much press coverage, and I’m excited about that.”
“I might not be the fastest guy with flat-out speed, but I’m shifty and I’ve got the hands. I think what will separate me from other guys is my football IQ, knowing how to dissect a defence on the fly and get open.”