By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
Hank Baskett was counting on being in the very place he is today — Miami, site of Super Bowl XLIV.
He just figured he’d be in Sunday’s game wearing Eagles green, and not Colts blue.
“I felt like we were going to the Super Bowl in Philadelphia,” Baskett said. “We got close last year. I figured we’d take the next step.”
But the Eagles decided they’d take steps without him. After signing him to a one-year, $1.545 million tender offer, the Eagles kept him for only one game of his fourth season, cutting ties to make roster room for quarterbacks Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick.
It was evident the fourth-year pro had good relationships with his Eagles teammates — quarterback Donovan McNabb was with a group of players who visited Clovis two years ago for a charity basketball game, and he often had Eagles teammates join him for his charity golf tournament.
But losing any job is hard.
“I got released, which was bittersweet,” Baskett said, “but I got to sign with another great organization.”
His agent, Jim Ivler, said Baskett had a lot of suitors. But joining an Indianapolis squad with three-time MVP Peyton Manning, three years removed from a Super Bowl victory, was the best.
“We had lots of different options,” Ivler said. “At the time, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity.”
Little has changed. The Colts started the season 14-0, and Manning won his fourth MVP in the process. Baskett, like the MVP voting panel, is convinced.
“It’s big, having a coach on the field,” Baskett said of Manning, who’s found the 2001 Clovis High grad four times for 28 yards this season. “When it’s said and done, he’s going to go down as the best in the game at the quarterback position.”
Of rookie coach Jim Caldwell, Baskett calls him a player’s coach.
“He’s a great coach,” Baskett said. “He’s always asking you how your legs are feeling, making sure you’ve got the energy to go out there.”
Due to his marriage to former Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson, Baskett has been put into the media spotlight, along with New Orleans Saints star Reggie Bush. But while Bush has promised to propose to celebrity girlfriend Kim Kardashian if the Saints win, Baskett’s trying to avoid making waves.
“It’s a business trip,” he said, adding that the game will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.
Baskett and Ivler both know a Super Bowl ring adds to a resume, but they’re brushing off questions of impending free agency.
“We’re going to enjoy the Super Bowl first,” Ivler said, “then he and I are going to sit down in California next week and go over the game plan.”
Any NFL player, Baskett included, wants to be remembered for helping his team win a Super Bowl, as opposed having his team win without his help — Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey still has to answer questions about the ring he got two years ago despite missing Super Bowl XLII with a broken leg.
For that, Baskett said, the key is to stay focused.
“They call your number, you’ve got to be ready,” Baskett said. “Whether it’s 100 snaps, or one snap, you’ve got to be prepared for it.”