Adversity. For most, the word carries a negative connotation – something best avoided or at least forgotten. For former Stanford and current Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin ’11, however, overcoming adversity has been as integral to his development as learning how to run routes, a lesson he credits in large part to his alma mater.
“Being a Stanford student-athlete, you have to be able to manage your time right and you have to deal with a lot of adversity on and off the field,” Baldwin said. “It definitely prepares you in a different way for the NFL, where there’re so many distractions off the field. It’s reminiscent of the distractions you have [at Stanford].”
Baldwin’s journey to becoming a top receiver on one of the NFL’s best teams (the Seahawks currently own a 9-1 record) has certainly seen its fair share of obstacles. Coming out of Gulf Breeze, Fla., as an unheralded recruit, he dealt with injuries and struggled to earn playing time during his first three years at Stanford. Baldwin’s struggles, however, allowed him to develop an appreciation for overcoming adversity that shapes much of his mentality today. In his breakout senior season, Baldwin recorded 857 yards and nine touchdowns to lead all Cardinal receivers.
Despite a tremendous senior year, Baldwin went undrafted in the 2011 NFL draft yet emerged as the Seahawks’ top receiver in the 2011 season, finishing with 51 receptions for 788 yards and four touchdowns. After being limited to 29 catches in 2012, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Baldwin has cemented his status as one of the league’s most dangerous slot receivers in 2013, amassing 523 yards and two touchdowns on 34 receptions.
While he has found success in the NFL, Baldwin says that he misses his days on the Farm quite a bit, especially the camaraderie with his teammates.
“I miss the camaraderie [the most],” Baldwin shared. “In the NFL, with the high turnover ratio, you can get close to guys, but…anything can happen. I definitely miss the camaraderie with the guys, knowing that you’re building something with them for four years, and that part of it is special. [In the NFL] you never know where you’re going to be next year.”
Baldwin’s love for his former teammates still plays a big role in his life today. In fact, Baldwin mentioned that one of the biggest factors in his decision to sign with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent was the chance to reunite with cornerback Richard Sherman ‘11 and maintain some of that Stanford locker room camaraderie.
Baldwin also stays in touch with his former Stanford teammates who are now in the NFL, a group that formed the core of the Cardinal squad that won the Orange Bowl in 2011, a team that Baldwin calls “one of the most special teams in Stanford history” for sending the Cardinal to its first BCS Bowl game since 1998.
Although the 2010-11 Stanford team holds a special place in Baldwin’s heart, he noted that he has been very impressed with this year’s group, particularly with their game plan against Oregon.
“I watched the Oregon game and I thought that was exactly what Stanford does [best]…running the ball down the throat of the opponent,” Baldwin said. “They got back to the way they want to play the game, which is battle in the trenches. They played the game of football the way it should be played.”
Despite the growing number of Stanford graduates in the NFL and the continued success of the Cardinal football program, Baldwin says that there is still plenty of adversity for Stanford alumni in the NFL to overcome.
“There’s this stigma that Stanford players can’t handle the culture of the NFL,” Baldwin said.
In recent weeks, as the story of Jonathan Martin ‘12 choosing to leave the Miami Dolphins due to bullying and harassment from teammates has received a lot of press, the perception of Stanford players as incapable of handling the culture of the NFL has been popularized. Baldwin, however, keeps providing evidence that he can play at the highest level.
On Sunday, Baldwin finished with five receptions for 76 yards in the Seahawks’ 33-10 romp over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Indianapolis Colts and quarterback Andrew Luck ‘12 suffered their worst defeat of the season so far in a 38-8 blowout loss to the St. Louis Rams. Luck completed 29 of his 47 passes for 353 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions. Fellow second-year Colts players Coby Fleener ‘12 and Griff Whalen ‘12 finished with four catches for 33 yards and three receptions for 36 yards, respectively.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.