"Terry had a great deal to learn before he could play single wing," Prothro says. "He'd never run with the ball before he came here, and everyone had told him he couldn't play single wing. Everyone but us, that is. We told him he could. At first, he wasn't a good runner, but he kept improving. He's not fast, but he learned to be elusive, and he has a great competitive spirit."
Last fall, as a sophomore, Baker alternated as Oregon State's single-wing tailback with Don Kasso, the best running back in the college but an inferior passer. For a while they played about an equal amount of time, but Kasso was injured in midseason and was unable to play in two games. In those, Baker gained 274 and 302 yards, respectively, running and passing, and thus was able to set the new Oregon State record for most yards gained in a single season, a total that ranked him sixth in the whole country in this category.
"I don't really know what I do that's different," Baker will tell you in explaining how he learned to run with the ball. "I'm not very fast, you know. I guess I just give the basketball fakes out there, and it seems to work."
"Don't let anyone kid you," says Kasso, the husky little towhead who was Baker's rival for the tailback position. "Terry may not look fast, but that long-legged lope of his really eats up the ground and fools people. They don't think he's moving as fast as he is."
Although Oregon State had a very respectable 6-3-1 record last year and lost by only a single point to Washington, the team that represented the West in the Rose Bowl, Prothro decided to convert his offense to the T formation this year so he could use both Baker and Kasso in the same backfield at the same time. This meant that Baker again had to skip baseball in the spring in order to learn all of Prothro's formations. This was quite a blow to the baseball coach, who harbors secret dreams of building Baker into an ambidextrous pitcher. For Baker still throws a baseball right-handed, as he learned to do in his boyhood, although he throws the football left-handed.
Baker's clear thinking is the one trait that impresses his elders above all his other assets. Admiral Daniel B. Miller, who had him as a student in his general engineering course, says he is "one of the best students I ever had. Normally, there are about 25% dropouts in this course; in other words, it's not a Mickey Mouse, as the boys would say. Terry showed me a clear, decisive mind, and his work is neat and logical. Above all, he knows how to husband his time, and his concentration is remarkable. You could shoot a gun off in the room when he is studying, and it wouldn't disturb him."
Coach Prothro puts the same idea a different way. "With most boys," he says, "if they ask you a question, you can just give them an answer, and that's that. With Terry, he's so intelligent you've got to stop and think. I remember one time we were discussing the subject of second- and third-choice receivers on pass plays, and I told him I didn't want him to throw to anyone if the designated receiver was not open. Right away he wanted to know whether that was because I didn't think he was good enough or whether I would apply the same rule to anyone. He always wants to get to the heart of the matter."
At college, Baker lives in the Phi Delt house, one of the large family residences bordering the campus that have been converted into fraternity houses. The Phi Delts have always included prominent athletes in their membership, so it was natural for Baker to join them, but his election to the presidency at the end of his sophomore year was a tribute that may well be remembered around Corvallis long after his football heroics. Baker's scholarship, which was transferred from the basketball to the football budget last year, takes care of the $80 a month that is charged for board and room at the Phi Delt house as well as the $270 tuition charged by the college and some $40 or more a year that he must spend on books. Actually, the board and room allowance for an athletic scholarship at Oregon State is $90 a month, and since Baker doesn't use it all at the Phi Delt house, he gets to keep the difference for spending money.
He sleeps with his fraternity brothers in a large room full of double-decker bunks, but he also has a small corner room on the second floor of the house where he studies and hangs his clothes. He shares this room, which measures about 10 feet by 10 feet, with a classmate and one of the newly pledged freshmen, and it has all the shabby informality of a few hundred thousand other college rooms from Abilene Christian to Youngstown U. Guiding a visitor through the fraternity, Baker displays a kind of paternal fustiness, complaining about trash in the hallways and the fact that the workmen didn't complete their repairs during the summer holidays and the untidiness of the living room. But he also takes great pride in displaying the intramural athletic cups on the piano and the photographs of the fraternity's athletic heroes on the walls of the basement playroom and the small closet where the Phi Delts tidily file away past examination papers to help in the preparation for future ones.
Due largely to the presence of Terry Baker and Don Kasso in the same T-formation backfield, the prospects for a successful season at Oregon State had never been higher during the seven-year tenure of Coach Prothro than they were when the team opened its season on September 23 in Portland against a highly regarded team from Syracuse. It was late in the first quarter, however, before Baker could build up any momentum in the team, and already they were trailing, 7-0.