George Baltimore's got mail


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Saturday morning practices have taken on a new meaning for George Baltimore.

Before the start of the 2011 season, Baltimore viewed Saturday practice sessions merely as opportunities to right the wrongs of Friday-night games. It was very early in the season when the weekend practices became something more.

Each Saturday, Mansfield (Texas) High School coach Jeff Hulme would put college interest letters in his players' lockers. It served as motivation for many of the players. For Baltimore, an ESPNU Watch List safety who attends Mansfield, the occasional letter quickly became a barrage of weekly mail thanks to his performance after the Tigers defeated Keller, Texas, in their second game of the season.

Baltimore recorded two interceptions and returned one of those 95 yards for a touchdown as Mansfield beat Keller, 40-27. Baltimore also returned a punt 80 yards for a score.

All of that occurred in the game's first 15 minutes.

"That day right there was it for me," Baltimore said. "I came back the next week, and there were 50, 60 letters waiting for me. Usually, it was just one or two letters."

Since then, the letters haven't stopped flooding his locker. Baltimore is balancing 11 offers and has a large number of suitors on the cusp of extending an offer.

Baltimore has scholarship offers from Arkansas, Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Arizona State, Purdue and Kansas, in addition to in-state schools Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor, SMU and North Texas.

At 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, Baltimore fits the physical appearance of a safety. He likes to make the big hit, but because of his 4.51-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he's also a solid coverage back.

"One of the biggest things [colleges] see is that he's a playmaker, and that's what they all want," Hulme said. "You want to see if a kid can make a play, whether it's an interception or returning something for a touchdown or making a good tackle. He plays with great instincts. When you see a kid jump out on film like he does, if a school has a need at safety, they're going to jump all over him."

During the 2011 season, Baltimore recorded 76 tackles, 13 pass breakups and seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. In addition to playing safety, Baltimore also has shown his worth on offense and special teams, lining up at running back, Wildcat quarterback and receiver, as well as a punt and kickoff return specialist.

Baltimore has been playing varsity since his freshman year and grown two inches and put on 45 pounds. He's a regular in the weight room, bench pressing close to 300 pounds and squatting nearly 400. He also has a personal trainer, which he works with four times a week.

"My freshman year, I didn't have that punch. If a person grabbed me, I'd slow down," Baltimore said. "Coach said he wanted me to focus on being able to rip through people, and I've been in the weight room working hard to get bigger, faster and more explosive."

Baltimore's hard work has resulted in double-digit offers, but he often wondered if he'd be stuck at three offers. He held offers from Texas Tech, Michigan State and Baylor for several weeks before picking up the others in spurts starting in February. Texas Tech was the first school to offer.

"I had started working on those three and worrying about committing to one of them," Baltimore said, "but then, out of nowhere, the offers started rolling in. It feels good to know that people want me to play for their team."

"I'm not surprised he has that many offers," Hulme added. "He's been a leader for our team since he stepped on campus. He just has that knack about him. People and student-athletes definitely follow him. I know some fifth- and sixth-graders who talk about him. My daughter is in the fifth grade, and her friends talk about him all the time."

Baltimore said he's not going to make any college decisions until after spring ball. From there, he said he will begin eliminating schools by weighing different intangibles -- educational background, football program history and campus atmosphere among many -- and prepare a top list of schools to choose from. He hopes to announce a verbal commitment before the summer.

After all, waiting until after spring ball is the perfect opportunity to increase his already high mail intake.

"It got to a point where during the season, the letters would just be stacking up," Baltimore said. "It just shows that I've been working hard ... but it's not over yet."