Terrence Baggett grew up in a family with a long history of military service. Back to the Civil War in fact, and on both sides no less.
But it wasn’t until a home visit by a University of Pennsylvania coach convinced him the military should also be his destination.
Robert Price, Baggett’s step-father, was sitting across a table in their Chicago area home when the visiting head coach from Penn made the following statement: “There is no one better than us, except West Point.’’
“Terry looked across the table from me, and I could see it in his eyes,’’ Price said Monday afternoon from the Point. “I knew exactly what he was thinking. I knew at that point his mind was made up.’’
The next day Price sent an email out to Army assistant coach Joe Ross, whose recruiting area is the Midwest. The following day Ross responded, then the next day and the day after that.
Ross eventually came out to see Baggett play, and that locked up the deal. “Terry wanted them and they wanted Terry,’’ Price said.
Baggett, a direct entry, is a running back with the unteachable knack of eluding tackles �" as well as breaking them. He and prep grad Trenton Turrentine should be an interesting tandem to watch this season as the new guys try and play their way onto the field.
“He’s mature for his age,’’ Price said. “He’s 18 but he acts 25. He can flip that switch on the field. He can focus. He can see holes that other players don’t see and he can squirt through them. Even being tackled he can easily wrangle out of ‘em and make the big play.
“Four players, five different times that I observed, jumped him and he wound up making a touchdown. His coach was absolutely amazed. One time he fumbled the ball, picked the ball up, ran to one sideline, the hole closed up, and he ran back across the field and ran 34 yards for the touchdown.’’
Price also sites “T-Bag’s’’ ability to motivate others. Down 34-14 in one game, Baggett’s energy, chiding and positive attitude helped the team come back for a 35-34 victory.
The nickname came from the six-year-old sister of a teammate, when she wasn’t able to pronounce Baggett’s name. Thus was born T-Bag.
Local reporters dubbed him “Big-Time.’’
The Whole Man
By any name, Army bagged a good one, and not just a football player. “That day with Penn,’’ Price said, “he kept telling me, ‘You know, dad, they do not want the whole person there. All they want is a football player.’ The Penn coach was stressing football, football, football, and we were stressing academics. Terry wanted something more rounded. He wanted the best education. And most of the other places had party atmospheres, West Point didn’t. The decision was up to him, and we were quite proud that he decided to go there.’’
Price left the military after 20 years of service in 1999. He retired at age 38, as a Sergeant First Class. Nine of those years were overseas, as well as deployment in Operation Desert Storm (82nd Airborne to Grenada), Somalia and Bosnia.
Price’s grandfather served in World War I, his father served in Korea, an uncle was in World War II. Price’s oldest son Robert has already had three tours, including Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq. He is currently stationed at Fort Leonardwood in Missouri. “Now it’s Terry’s turn to keep it going,’’ Price said.
He and his wife Alice have always told their children that they can do anything, they can become whatever they desire, as long as they adhere to three phrases: “I can’t, I’m tired, I quit.’’
“We never wanted to hear that out of our children,’’ he said. “So we told him that right off the bat. We told them they can achieve anything as long as they don’t start saying those three words. We’ve always tried to keep them with a positive attitude.’’
That was no different this afternoon when the family bid their farewells.
Growing New Roots
After a briefing to the parents by an Army officer at Eisenhower Hall, each Plebe had 90 seconds to say good-bye to loved ones. They then marched out a side door and the parents filed out the back door.
“They had envelopes and writing materials for us outside to write him letters, and we all wrote him and they were taken to the post office. So right off the bat he would be getting letters. We already had his address, so friends and family began writing him, so there will be a mess of letters initially.’’
Aside from Price and Baggett’s mom, his sister Latrice and his two brothers Robert and Lance made the trip. No surprise that Lance, a 6-foot-1, 230 senior linebacker in high school is very interested in following his brother to West Point and playing for Army. Baggett’s biological father, Terrence Lamar Baggett Sr., was also in attendance.
The students had to lock up their cell phones for the rest of boot camp, were off to a meeting and then to get their haircuts.
The families were scheduled to get a final glance at the young men when the Plebes march together early this evening. No communication will be allowed.
The next time they can see them is late August, on the grounds for what is commonly known as A-Day (Acceptance Day). “What he sets his sights on happens,’’ Price said about his step-son. “So he’s calling for a win over Navy, he’s talking about having a championship ring, and winning the Heisman. I wouldn’t bet against him.
“We have always said to make sure you set goals within attainability. You don’t set them too far so to be disappointed, but don’t undercut yourself. Don’t underestimate yourself. So if he’s going to set a goal like that, I’m pretty sure he’ll make it.’’
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