Brad Baxter
No. 30
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born: (1967-05-05) May 5, 1967 (age 53)
Dothan, Alabama
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school:Slocomb (AL)
College:Alabama State
NFL Draft:1989 / Round: 11 / Pick: 303
Career history
 * Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career NFL statistics
Rushing attempts-yards:779–2928
Receptions-yards:80–587
Touchdowns:35
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

Herman Brad Baxter (born May 5, 1967) is a former professional American football player in the National Football League. He spent his entire career with the New York Jets (1989–1995). A 6'2”, 233 lbs. running back from Alabama State, Baxter's best year as a pro came during the 1991 season when he rushed for 11 touchdowns. Did you know Alabama State University alumnus Brad Baxter had the NFL's third most rushing touchdowns in 1991, only behind Barry Sanders and Emmit Smith?[1]

Of the 10 players picked immediately in front of Baxter in the 11th round of the 1989 Draft, only one of them played in the NFL.[2] Baxter was the New York Jets' fullback for six seasons. He ran for 2,928 yards and 35 touchdowns.Looking back at Brad Baxter's relatively modest NFL career, it was surprising he didn't go higher. While at Alabama State he finished with 3,728 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 19 100 yard games. These accolades alone would garner strong praise in today's NFL scouting circles, but he probably carried the ‘small school’ stigma. Originally an 11th round long shot out of Alabama State by Minnesota  in the legendary 1989 draft, Brad Baxter did not make the roster of the talent deep Vikings. In fact, while the ’89 draft is considered one of the stronger ones in the modern era, it was disastrous for the Vikings’ front office. Still even after being cut by the Vikings, Brad believed in himself, and embraced his underdog status. The New York Jets picked him up quietly and placed him on their developmental squad before the season was out, and he played on special teams in the team's season finale.  As head coach Joe Walton was shown the door after the 1989 season, the Jets front office decided to bring in Bengals offensive guru Bruce Coslet to coach the team. With Coslet, came a new offensive philosophy, and for Brad, -an opportunity. The Jets in fact had so much confidence in Baxter, they let incumbent 1st round choice Roger Vick go.

Brad did not disappoint. He'd be one of the best blocking backs in the league, handling the load for guys like Blair Thomas, Freeman McNeil, and Johnny Hector. The team as a whole was 4th in the NFL averaging 132.9 yards per game. Baxter also got into the act rushing for a club rookie (on technicality) mark with 6 rushing TDs, and paired with Thomas to be the first duo of Jets rookies to finish with 500+ yards rushing in a season. In fact Baxter's 539 yards, were only second to Thomas among all AFC rookies that year.

Mr. Hit and Run followed up 1990 by leading the AFC with 11 rushing touchdowns in 1991, matching a team record, as the Jets discovered Smooth's nose for the end zone. His 666 yards rushing were second again to teammate Blair Thomas. In 1992 Baxter led the team and ran for a career high 698 yards as the Jets struggled under a quarterback transition from Ken O’Brien to Browning Nagle. Johnny Johnson assumed the majority of the running load from Blair and Brad, as Boomer Esiason joined the team at quarterback in 1993, but Brad still managed to garner 559 yards and 20 receptions. Again, Brad survived another coaching transition with Pete Carroll taking over for Coslet in 94, and Rich Kotite for Carroll in ’95.

In the meantime Brad had gotten into an side business- cattle hauling. This caused quite a stir when he opted not to show up at ‘voluntary’ mini camp over the summer in order to manage it. OC Ron Earhardt apparently took it as a cardinal sin, and gave the job to Richie Anderson. Baxter, while a fine blocker and rusher, did not tally high numbers receiving and the new coaching staff saw his lack of willingness to participate in mini camp as a liability.  Baxter was cut after 7 seasons. The Jets then went 1-15.

Many fans today still consider Brad as the best blocking back the franchise ever had, as even in those lean years through all those bad teams and a turnstile of coaches, Baxter could be counted on the champion the runningback in the ground game, clearing paths, or finding a little wiggle room himself.

While the Jets have had their share of strong fullbacks over the past 20 years, none were as tough as Baxter. The 6'1" Baxter ran through would-be tacklers as if they were children and blew up blitzing linebackers dead in their tracks. He compares to John Conner off of today's team, but with better running skills.[3]

Jets Just Can't Seem to Find Right Time to Use Baxter [4]

Brad Baxter was rubbing lotion into his hands, choosing his words carefully, trying perhaps to run wide around questions about the way he was used earlier this season, especially in a game against the Falcons in Atlanta.

At the time, the Jets were 1-2 and coming off a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Trailing Atlanta by 13-3 early in the fourth quarter, the Jets had wrestled the momentum away from the Falcons, and were poised for a score on a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

The situation begged for the services of the 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound Baxter, a fullback and short-yardage specialist from Alabama State, who led the Jets in rushing touchdowns in each of his first five seasons.

On first down, Adrian Murrell was stopped for no gain. On second down, the tight end Fred Baxter dropped an easy touchdown pass in the end zone.

On third-and-goal, the first-year coach, Rich Kotite, puzzled many observers by lining up Richie Anderson behind Boomer Esiason, sending Baxter into a wingback position in place of the injured Johnny Mitchell.

Esiason took the snap from center, wheeled around, and handed the ball to Anderson, who was hit hard and fumbled high into the air. The football went north. The Jets' season went south, and stands at 2-9 heading into Sunday's game at Seattle.

"We had people hurt and I was playing another position," Baxter, being diplomatic, said in the Jets' locker room Monday. "Whatever they call is whatever I run."

While Baxter tiptoed around the questions concerning his disappearance during that crucial series, Esiason was more straightforward.

"Early in the season, we probably didn't use Brad as correctly as we would have liked to," the quarterback said. "The one place where we didn't use him correctly was down in Atlanta. That's where you want to give him the ball.

"But it's like anything else. Coaches have to learn players and players have to learn systems. There was a point there where we weren't using him correctly, but now we are."

In Sunday's 28–26 loss to Buffalo at the Meadowlands, Baxter took a handoff from Esiason during the first offensive series and bulled his way for a 26-yard gain, his longest run from scrimmage in three years.

Although long gains have been rare for Baxter, he has excelled in his role as a tough-yardage and short-touchdown-yardage player.

"Everybody knows I have the potential to make certain plays," said Baxter. "But this year is different. The situations are different. The schemes are different."

This season, Baxter has registered a career-low one rushing touchdown. Sadly, he leads the Jets in that department. New York has scored 14 touchdowns on pass plays this season, and three others on returns. Baxter has carried the ball 70 times for 244 yards and been used mostly as a blocker for Esiason.

When asked if he felt like a forgotten man, the stocky fullback rolled his eyes, went to work again on the lotion and said: "Not at all. Fans always come up to me and ask me why I'm not getting the ball more. But we just haven't been in a lot of short-yardage situations this year."

Entering this season, Baxter had rushed for 34 touchdowns in his five seasons as the Jets' starting fullback, placing sixth over that period behind Emmitt Smith (71), Barry Sanders (48), Thurman Thomas (40), Rodney Hampton (37) and Marcus Allen (35).

"That's probably impressive to a lot of people, but I never have, and I never will, get caught up in statistics," said Baxter. "I'm just doing what is asked of me."[5]

Jets’ Baxter Plays, Practices at Full Speed

As they brushed past each other in the New York Jets’ locker room the other day after practice, linebacker Bobby Houston said to fullback Brad Baxter, “Hey, man, you didn’t have to do that.” Houston, like several Jets defenders before him, was upset by Baxter's aggressive play in practice.

“That was a cut-block,” Baxter said to Houston, who knew perfectly well what it was and didn't appreciate it. To an outsider, Baxter explained, “I try to give the defense a good picture in practice.”

It's no fun to take on Baxter in practice, but come game day, teammates and coaches cringe with pleasure at the shots he lays on the opposition. After the Jets beat Miami, center Jim Sweeney spoke of how Baxter fired up the offensive line with the bell-ringing blocks he put on the Dolphins.

Coach Bruce Coslet had a tape of Baxter's greatest hits from that game spliced together so he could show it to the Jets the night before they played Cleveland. When the tape was over, Coslet turned to Baxter and said, “Don’t let me down by backsliding now.” He didn't.

Baxter led the Jets in rushing against the Browns, and he showed he can hit just as hard with the ball in his hands as he does without it. “There was one play where Cleveland had a safety real close to the line,” said pro personnel director Jim Royer, who signed Baxter to the Jets’ practice squad two years ago. “We had no one to block him. Baxter decks the guy in the hole. He didn’t need a blocker.”

Royer loves the guy, not just because he signed Baxter, but because he plays football the way it's supposed to be played. The Jets had no idea Baxter would turn into such a good blocker when they signed him for their developmental squad after the Minnesota Vikings cut the 11th-round pick.

“There’s not a better blocking fullback in the NFL,” Royer said. “Plus, he can run and catch.”

Not even Baxter knew he could block until he got to the NFL. As a high school tailback in Slocomb, Ala., he said he rushed for 4,200 yards and scored 40 touchdowns. He turned down Auburn to attend Alabama State, where he scored 30 TDs and rushed for 3,728 yards to break the Southwestern Athletic Conference record held by Walter Payton. Baxter held the record for just a few hours before it waw broken by current New York Giants’ running back Lewis Tillman of Jackson State.

The first time anyone asked Baxter to block was in the Blue-Gray all-star game when he wound up blocking much of the time for Tillman. Baxter caught on quickly. At 6-1 and 235 pounds with 4.62-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he packs a punch.

“It’s not a hard job,” he said. "(The defender) is coming at you. All you’ve got to do is hit the target, and it’s not a small target. I know I’m playing offense, but I feel I’m in charge. Believe me, the other guy is going to feel it as much as I am, and maybe he won’t come as hard the next time.”

During his year on the practice squad, a lot of Jets met Baxter the hard way. “You don’t go full steam and make the varsity look bad, but when Baxter ran, guys were bouncing off him like billiard balls, including Marty Lyons,” Royer said, referring to the longtime defensive lineman who retired after last season. “The veterans picked up the tempo, but Baxter never slowed down. He took some hellacious shots, put the ball down and ran the next play.”

Baxter was there to win a job, so he approached practice like a game even though it made him unpopular with the vets. “Guys told me I was beating them up before the game,” he recalled. “Marty would yell, ‘Hit him, hit him. He’ll slow down.’ Joe Walton said, ‘Tackle him. Take him to the ground.’ It was (full-speed contact) on me. The harder they hit me, the harder I played.”

When Coslet replaced Walton as the Jets’ coach last year, Baxter was borderline to make the team. But once he started leveling people in practice, he made fullback Roger Vick, a first-round draft choice in 1987, expendable. Vick was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Baxter went on to become the Jets’ second-leading rusher with 124 carries for 539 yards.

Blair Thomas is the Jets’ featured back, but Baxter loves his job as the lead blocker and short-yardage specialist. His agent gave Baxter a nickname that fits -- “Hit and Run”—and Baxter sometimes wears a T-shirt with the nickname on the front and a license plate on the back with his name on it. At the bottom of the plate is the word “Transporter.”

“It’s saying, ‘Catch the license plate of that truck,”’ Baxter said.

That’s appropriate, too, because Baxter’s father, Herman, was a long-haul truck driver who usually transported livestock for more than 30 years until he recently retired at the urging of his wife, Bessie. Herman Baxter supported his five children -- three girls and two boys -- that way, but he told his oldest son, Brad, there were better things to do in life.

“We had everything we needed, but we always knew what it was like to work,” Baxter said. “My parents said, ‘If you play football, be the best. Don’t just be there.’ I had more pressure from my mom and dad than anyone, especially when I got older.”

Baxter’s playing style is a reflection of his hard-working values. But while Baxter hits opponents as hard as a wrecking ball, there’s one thing he wants to make perfectly clear about the way he plays. “It’s clean, hard licks,” he said. “I’m not a dirty player. I don’t hit anybody when they’re not looking. I can face you up and get the job done that way.”

He means it. Baxter doesn't have a reverse gear. When the weather gets colder and the games get tougher down the stretch, Coslet plans to run him even more to let defenders feel Baxter's sting.

As Coslet said, “He’s a tough SOB. You want to go down an alley with him.”[6]

References

  1. ^ "Log into Facebook". Facebook. Retrieved 2021-02-18. Cite uses generic title (help)
  2. ^ "NFL Draft: Steals and bargains with Alabama roots". al. 2018-04-15. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  3. ^ Constantino, Rocco. "The Toughest Players to Play for Every New York Jets Head Coach". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  4. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1995/11/22/sports/football-jets-just-can-t-seem-to-find-right-time-to-use-baxter.html
  5. ^ "Baxter, Brad "Smooth" | The Football Autograph Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2021-01-22.
  6. ^ "Jets' Baxter Plays, Practices at Full Speed". Los Angeles Times. 1991-10-13. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Freeman McNeil
New York Jets Starting Running Back
1990–1993
Succeeded by
Johnny Johnson