Offensive lineman Tony Pape calls him the meanest guy on the field.
Junior long snapper Ross Mann refers to him as a gentle giant.
And coach Lloyd Carr praises him for being one of the most driven and confident members of the Michigan football team.
So just who is Michigan senior offensive lineman David Baas? According to the man himself, he’s many things. But first and foremost, he’s an integral member of one of the most dominating offensive lines in the nation – a line preparing for what could be its biggest challenge in four years: Notre Dame.
Most students will never have the opportunity to run into Baas on the field during a football game. And for that, they should be thankful. Baas is known for being vicious on the gridiron, always working to get into his opponents’ heads with an extra hit or a shoulder to the chest. He says being tagged as the “mean guy” doesn’t bother him, though. Actually, it’s a source of pride.
“It’s a reputation I enjoy,” Baas said. “You have to have a different mentality when you get out on the field. You have to change. And if it takes being a little nasty, or having that extra tenacity, then you have to give yourself an edge. I’m going to keep doing it.”
Baas’ mentality puts a smile on his fellow linemates’ faces. They know that the more people Baas intimidates, the easier their jobs become.
“If I land an extra hit and I knock the guy on the ground, everybody’s going to think twice about doing that again, and it helps the people around me,” Baas said. “That’s one thing we’ve done very well this year is help each other out.”
But where, you may ask, does this raging bull mentality come from on game days? After all, Baas is described as one of the kindest and friendliest players on the team – when you can get him off the field.
Although he can’t pinpoint it exactly, Baas says it all begins the morning of game days. Baas describes his on-field demeanor as a mental state he has to get into before games. In order to get into that mode, he turns on a little rock music by one of his favorite bands, Eve & Adam.
Although he won’t be caught dead trying to sing their songs, Baas says listening to the music puts him in a zone, and once he’s there, it’s on.
Baas is careful not to keep it on for too long, though, as once the game ends, he’s back to his usual cordial self.
“The little guy on my shoulder with the funny red hat just decides to jump inside me on game day,” Baas said. “Off the field I try to be a good person to everyone I meet. I think I know when to turn (my intensity level) on.”
Mann says that he and Baas have spent time hanging out together off the field, and he has never seen the gentle giant without a smile on his face.
“He’s always a really happy, pleasant guy,” Mann said. “He treats everyone he meets so well.”
Mann says they spend time together playing video games (Baas is partial to the original Nintendo), hanging out at Gallagher’s Eatery and Sports Bar, or shooting hoops – something Baas has developed a certain skill for.
“The guy’s got an amazing jumpshot,” Mann said. “We have 3-point shooting contests sometimes, and he always wins.”
But the football field is where Baas wants to be, and the Wolverines couldn’t be happier. The offensive line has completely overpowered Michigan’s first two opponents in Central Michigan and Houston, and now awaits a formidable challenge in Notre Dame’s defensive front.
The Irish’s front line is tough, physical and takes pride in its ability to shut down opponents’ running games. With the way Michigan has been running the ball lately, this is a challenge that Baas says the Michigan offensive line is looking forward to.
“We have to be prepared,” he said. “We have to do everything necessary to come out there and play a good game against this defensive front. Notre Dame is a good team, and we have to be ready in every single aspect, run and pass.”
Being from Florida, Baas says he did not watch Notre Dame while growing up, so did not know too much about the rivalry when he arrived on campus. But in his time here, he has come to understand the importance of these two legendary schools clashing on the field. Especially after last season, when he took part in the heartbreaking 25-23 loss in South Bend.
“We do not want to dwell in the past, but we hurt ourselves. I think we will be out there battling for four quarters. As you have seen in the past, there are a lot of games that come down to the last minute. Constantly, every single minute of this week, you are thinking about this game. As a player and a coach, you know what this game is about, and I can already feel the emotion.”
David Baas. Gentle giant, or brutal force? Whatever he might be, if you’re a Michigan football player or a fan, it’s nice to have him in your corner.
But if you line up against him, you better hope that little guy with the funny red hat doesn’t give him any ideas.