Chris Baldwin has a perspective unique to elite running backs. He knows what it is like to try and stop one.
A year ago, a leg injury and playing behind two senior running backs meant the best place for the Curie junior was at linebacker. The experience allowed him to develop greater toughness and discipline.
His first love was being the featured back. “Growing up I was always familiar with the running back position,” Baldwin said.
Now the running back position is all his and Baldwin has commanded the spotlight. The 5-11, 185-pounder has rushed for 1,400 yards and scored 27 touchdowns. Baldwin has been unstoppable the last two games. He scored four touchdowns against Brooks in a Public League playoff game in Week 9.
On Friday against Taft in a first-round Class 8A state playoff game, Baldwin elevated his own lofty standards rushing for 200 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries to lead the Condors to their first state playoff win in a 46-6 victory.
For his achievements, Baldwin has earned Sun-Times Athlete of the Week honors.
He certainly made an impression on Eagles coach Matt Walsh. “We had several times where we hit [Baldwin] three times and he just ran right through us.”
Curie (9-1) advanced to a second-round game at New Trier on Saturday.
“From what I’ve seen on film and watching him, he’s a very good runner with breakaway speed,” Trevians coach Brian Doll said. “In scouting him, he seems to be one of those backs who gets better the longer the game goes on.”
A deep thigh bruise caused Baldwin to miss the Condors’ first five games last season. He watched and studied the position.
Baldwin learned about the subtleties, like how to use blockers and wait for the hole to develop.
Baldwin has the size and power to play between the tackles and the speed to get into open space. He also knows how to improvise if necessary.
“I’m one of those guys who can make something happen out of nothing,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin is the centerpiece of the Curie’s run-oriented attack designed by coach James McDonagh that has produced a breakthrough campaign for the Condors.
Curie is averaging 350 yards rushing a game behind Baldwin. “He’s a very resilient player and he runs angry,” McDonagh said.
“I’m kind of surprised by the attention I’m getting as a CPS football player,” Baldwin said. “I have great teammates and I’m running behind a great line.”
The Condors only loss is against Simeon in conference play. Baldwin has taken the Condors to uncharted territory.
“I’m very excited and proud of my whole team,” Baldwin said. “Everybody thought we’d be an average team this year. We go 100 percent no matter who we play, and that’s why we’re successful.”