Former Penn State football player Chris Baker is preparing for training camp -- in Hampton, Va.
Baker, who was removed from the Penn State football team for unspecified reasons late last month, confirmed last night in a telephone interview he has met with coaches and players from Hampton University over the past two days.
After a team meeting late last night, Baker said Hampton, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision, has agreed to pick up his scholarship from Penn State.
"I came down and visited, talked to the coaches and stuff," Baker said. "I got a feel for the program and I just thought this was a good place."
Baker's career at Penn State, during which he made 43 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 20 games, was frequently marred by off-field incidents.
In May, Baker pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor simple assault and one count of criminal trespass. The counts stemmed from his involvement in a downtown fight at the Meridian last April and a fight in the HUB-Robeson Center in October.
Baker was temporarily expelled from Penn State last summer after the Meridian incident. He did not travel with the team to Texas to play in December's Alamo Bowl and was subsequently excused from the team, though he was later allowed to use the team's weight room and training facilities in the spring.
On July 15, Baker was charged in connection with harboring a dangerous dog.
While Baker said he "doesn't really have a relationship" with Joe Paterno, the Windsor, Conn., native said he still keeps in touch with friends from Penn State. Baker's relationship with his former position coach, Larry Johnson, Sr., is still good.
Baker said Johnson told him this would be "an opportunity to start over ... and get to the next level."
"[Johnson] was like a father figure," Baker said. "He always expected the best of us. He coached very intensely, he wanted the best out of every player so that's how he coached and that's how he treats you. If you ever needed something, he'll be the one that will sit down and talk with you. If you're ever wrong, he'll be the one to tell you that you're wrong."
A defensive tackle in his time at Penn State, Baker said he liked the defense the Pirates run and said he's fond of the way the coaching staff plans to use him. He will play either nose tackle or defensive end.
Education was also important to Baker, who said Hampton could offer him an opportunity to further his schooling.
The commotion surrounding Baker's split with Penn State didn't make it hard for him to catch on with another team, he said. When teams found out he was not going to play at Penn State, Baker said the "phones started ringing."
But Baker said he still doesn't know why he was removed from the team.
"It was difficult leaving and not knowing why I'm not playing for Penn State any more," Baker said.
When reached over the phone, Baker's mother, Jackie, said the family still didn't know why Baker was kicked off the team. She said her son was practicing with another team but wouldn't confirm which school that was.
"Nope," Jackie Baker said. "Chris is all situated."
Baker is not listed on Hampton's roster as of last night. Hampton sports information directors did not immediately return calls by press time.
Baker's former teammate Phil Taylor, who was removed from the team at the same time as Baker, is also in the process of transferring from Penn State, but hasn't yet fielded options from other schools.
Phil Taylor Sr. said last night in a telephone interview that his son would make up his mind "in the near future."
The elder Taylor also said the family is not sure why their son was kicked off the team.
"He's definitely going to go somewhere else and play," Phil Taylor Sr. said.