Oct. 22, 2010
Linebacker Baudler Excels in All Fields
By David Boyce
Raised on the family farm in Iowa, Northwest Missouri State senior linebacker Bill Baudler's way of life is about hard work and toughening it out when adverse circumstances arise.
Perhaps more than any other conference game, Baudler and the rest of the Bearcats will need that mentality Saturday afternoon when they travel to Topeka, Kan., and face Washburn.
It doesn't matter that Northwest, 5-1 overall, and 5-0 in the MIAA, is facing a Washburn team that is 3-2 in conference and has lost three of seven games.
The matchup usually turns into a bone-crunching battle filled with hits NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would cringe at, and the outcome is not decided until the final seconds.
Last year at Northwest's homecoming, the Bearcats escaped with a 22-19 win. In 2008, Northwest prevailed 24-21 and in 2007, again in Northwest's homecoming, the Bearcats won 28-27.
"We consider them the most physical team in the conference other than us," Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "I think that's why it is such a good match-up every year. They believe they can win. We've never been able to blow them out. Every year it is a close ball game. They really believe in what they are doing. They really are well coached."
At 1 p.m. Saturday, Washburn, in its homecoming, will try to be the team to end the 42-game MIAA winning streak by Northwest.
"In the past, five years or so, the margin of victory has only been a few points. It doesn't matter if it's their homecoming or if it is home or away and regardless of records, they are going to play us tough," Baudler said.
"They are a physical football team. It is going to be a war out there on Saturday."
Given Baudler's background, this is the type of game he relishes.
Baudler arrived in Maryville in 2005 from Fontanelle, Iowa. He played at a small school and made enough of an impact that some Northwest alums informed Tjeerdsma about him.
Word of mouth earned Baudler a tryout to be a walk-on.
"He hadn't played at a real high level of football and we didn't have a lot to go on so we asked him to walk-on and he was happy to do that," Tjeerdsma said. "He ran well, a good-looking kid.
"Our deal with walk-ons is they come in and they get the same opportunities as everybody else. As soon as they make our two-deep we put them on scholarship. We guarantee them that."
It's a deal Baudler could easily handle.
After graduating Nodaway Valley High School, Baudler was looking for a college where he could pursue an agriculture degree and play football.
Most of the NCAA colleges in Iowa are D-I or D-III
"I was getting a lot of interest in D-III but none of them had agriculture degrees," Baudler said." I wanted to pursue an agriculture degree and I also wanted to play football. Northwest ended up being a good fit for me."
All along, Baudler knew once he finished college he was heading back to a family farm that grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle.
Farming, he said, has been in every generation of his family on both sides. It's a way of life he already knows well.
"Kind of the fabric of America, to me, is if you work hard and put an effort into things, you are going to go places," Baudler said "The backbone of family farms and the farming community is hard work. It's something we take pride in."
That attitude has served him well during his days in the Northwest football program.
All walk-ons don't eventually get put on scholarship or earn a starting spot on one of the top Division II football programs in the country.
It is even harder to rise to that level when you have a season-ending leg injury early in your sophomore year like Baudler suffered in 2008. He was granted a medical redshirt.
"It is tough," he said "You bust your tail basically all-year round. You spend all summer in Maryville running and doing workouts and early in the season you get a season-ending injury. But everything happens for a reason."
The extra year allowed Baudler to become a full-time starter for the Bearcats in his sixth year at Northwest. He is also working on his Masters after earning a Bachelor degree in Agriculture Business.
"He's the epitome of hard work and determination," Tjeerdsma said. "He's a great student, 3.5, 3.7 GPA.
"He's the kind of person you want in your program. He has all the things you are looking for."
Determination and hard work paid off for Baudler. He's on scholarship. He ranks fifth on the team in tackles with 29. He's made two tackles for losses. Baudler is one of the cogs on one of the best defenses in the MIAA.
It's a gratifying feeling.
"You come in and you might not be one of the top guys or a guy they don't think will do big things at Northwest," Baudler said. "It is definitely fulfilling because you have to earn everything you get at Northwest as a walk-on.
"It feels pretty good once you work your way up the ladder and get to the top."
During the climb from walk-on to starter, Baudler observed the older guys ahead of him.
"When you get here you see all the older guys and you kind of want to be them," he said. "You see them win all those games and the success that comes with it and you just want to keep working hard so you can be in their shoes and in the spotlight, contributing to the success.
"It's a special thing to be a part of the success, watch it happen and then play a role in it."
Maybe that's the reason Northwest has pulled out so many close conference games in recent years. The older players, when they were freshmen and sophomores, had to work hard to eventually become starters. They understand nothing is given to them. It has to be earned.
It's that foundation that allowed the Bearcats to overcome a gritty effort by Emporia State last week and win 42-28.
"One thing about those types of games is it is good to know that when something goes wrong we can still find a way to win," Baudler said. "When you blow somebody out you don't have to face any adversity. That game on Saturday we faced a little bit and we still came out on top."
No question, Baudler is enjoying his final season of playing football at Northwest.
But this time next year he will be just as happy plowing fields, working with the cattle and doing all the many of the chores that comes with being a farmer.
"I like being outside and the diversity of the jobs you do," Baudler said. "It changes with the seasons. There are different jobs you do with every season. That's one nice thing about farming."
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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