looked grateful Friday afternoon. His smile exploded with every word he spoke.
His eyes surveyed every aspect of each room he entered as if he was trying to
soak in all the moments of the day for his own personal memory highlight reel.
He wanted to
be there. He believed he belonged there. He didn't appear nervous, apprehensive
or overwhelmed by the moment.
North Carolina A&T track and field standout, accepted the inaugural MEAC
Man of the Year award Friday at the 2012 Football Press Luncheon held at the
Sheraton Waterside Hotel in Norfolk, Va. It marked the third time an Aggie has
won MEAC Woman or Man of the Year as Baldwin joined softball's Renecia Lovelace
(2006) and women's track and field's Loreal Smith (2009).
made his acceptance speech in front of the hundreds gathered to usher in the
kickoff of the 2012 MEAC football season, his excitement was even more
gratitude he had for the people who helped him get to the podium to accept the
award ran out of the Aggies triple and long jumper's mouth like a effortless
sprint down the runway. His parents, the coach who recruited him - Roy
"Spaceman" Thompson, the current coaching staff and the A&T Athletics
department, all received a thank you with a smile.
there a hint of entitlement from Baldwin, which was refreshing. The enthusiasm
erupting through every Baldwin movement came from a man who was being rewarded
for having an effective plan. This is how Baldwin, who grew up in Greensboro,
saw it coming together when he first had the vision at Mendenhall Middle
School. And it felt great!
first. Learn the skills it takes to be an engineer in college. Compete collegiately
in track and field. Volunteer in the community. Enjoy college. Graduate with
honors. Start working in your field immediately after graduation. The MEAC Man
of the Year award was an unexpected treat at the end of this journey.
"I love being here," he said before the
luncheon. "I love being in the moment. There are a lot of people here, so it
looks like a big deal. To have a chance to speak in front of this many people
is an honor. When your achievements and accomplishments are recognized by so
many people it proves hard work pays off. It encourages you to keep working
stopping off to collect his Man of the Year award, Baldwin was also rewarded
with a cruise. In a few weeks, he will start work at The Boeing Company in St.
Louis. He then plans to obtain an advanced degree under a program Boeing provides
for its employees.
for getting here started with Baldwin's parents, Earl and Jean Baldwin. Baldwin
said their role in it was love and setting an example. Both his parents went to
college, which had a tremendous influence over Baldwin. He knew in middle
school, he wanted to go to college to be an engineer. To put more on his impressionable
mind, Baldwin had a brother and sister attend college with his brother earning
a postgraduate degree at the University of Southern California.
field became a part of the plan when he developed a love for the sport at an
early age. Recruiters began to call, including a few inquiries from N.C. State,
a school known for engineering and having top flight athletic programs. A&T's
"Spaceman" also came knocking. He didn't have the facilities or the national
reputation of N.C. State, but what he had was years of experience in coaching
All-American jumpers, and oh yes, it didn't hurt that he worked at the top school
for producing minority engineers.
"They had a
great pedigree, especially with jumpers," said Baldwin, who graduated from
A&T in May with a 3.43 grade point average. "The engineering program was
just so impressive, I truly believed I could get where I wanted to go by
attending A&T. Plus, I'm not one to go home much, so I felt like I could
still have the college experience even though I was going to school in my
blueprint began to show flaws, however. After two years, Thompson retired. In
an instance, the jump coach who was going to make him All-American was gone. In
his place was uncertainty. Baldwin was hoping for a smooth transition, but he
said it didn't turn out that way. The retirement left him and his teammates
wondering about the future of the program.
"We (as a
team) had to make a lot of adjustments," said Baldwin. "My mindset never
changed. There are always going to be distractions, detours and detractors
along the way. For me, going to college was always about getting my degree. You
never know when athletics will be taken away from you. I knew my academics were
going to take me further in life."
field hasn't been bad to him either. Baldwin settled in with Katrina Allen as
his jumps coach. In February, he won the MEAC indoor long jump championship and
captured third place in the triple jump. During the outdoor season, he
qualified for the triple jump at the NCAA Division I East Regional Preliminary
Round on his last jump in a Last Chance Meet at A&T's Irwin Belk Track.
Even when the
plan doesn't go smoothly, there are still lessons to be gained.
"It is all a
part of growing up," said Baldwin. "Things like that make you stronger. I've
always put academics before athletics, so I was able to focus."
His track and
field future is unclear. There is a part of him that still wants to compete,
but it still comes in distant second to furthering his career. He will train
when time permits, but as for now, he can't make a full commitment to competing
He is still
thankful for the opportunity track and field gave him to compete while seeing
his plan come to fruition on an athletic scholarship. He excited for what his
future plans hold because of where he was on Friday afternoon in Norfolk, Va. It
worked. The plan worked.