By Kyle Brandenburgh
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
On September 2, 2011, senior nose-tackle Nicolas Jean-Baptiste walked through the tunnel and onto the turf of Floyd Casey Stadium to the warm welcome of a deafening crowd. The fans were ready to watch the Bears upset the highly-touted TCU Horned Frogs.
"Walking out there was the greatest experience in football that I have had yet," Jean-Baptiste said. "It made you realize just how big the game was."
It was in that special moment that Jean-Baptiste could reminisce about the long and constant self-motivation it took for him to be where he is today.
After earning All-District honors on the offensive and defensive line in his senior year at Strake Jesuit College Prep in Stafford, Texas, Jean-Baptiste decided to walk-on to the Baylor football team.
Upon arrival at Baylor, he found out that getting to the top of the depth chart was going to take more than just hard work. To hone his skills and technique, Jean-Baptiste redshirted during his freshman campaign.
"It was really tough, but I knew that I had to be patient," Jean-Baptiste said. "I had to take full advantage whenever I had the opportunity to take the field."
With the help of his father's numerous motivating emails, Jean-Baptiste received a scholarship after the 2008 season. During that year, he shared time at nose tackle in all 12 games and was selected to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll.
"My mom was the first person that I called to tell, and she cried," Jean-Baptiste joked. "But, I knew I couldn't just settle for a scholarship. I wanted more."
With that fire, Jean-Baptiste worked his way into a supporting role as an interior defensive lineman his sophomore season. He played in all 12 games and made a presence each time he stepped onto the field creating about three stops a game.
Jean-Baptiste proved himself worthy of a starting role in his breakout junior year. Statistically, he ended the season with 31 tackles, two QB hurries, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass break-up.
He started each of the remaining regular season games after Rice, but was forced to miss the Texas Bowl due to an injury.
"Having to watch my team practice in Houston and then find out that I was not going to be able to play was horrible," Jean-Baptiste said. "I felt useless out there just watching."
In the off-season, he had a new chip on his shoulder. This time it was not earning a starting spot or proving himself worthy of a scholarship, as had been his goals in years past. This season he wants to get back to a big bowl game.
"Getting back is one of my biggest goals that I've had," Jean-Baptiste said. "It is my motivation."
So, after beating TCU, he claims that there is much more to accomplish and be done. The program has come a long way and somewhat grown up alongside Jean-Baptiste in his career here.
"The program has come a long way with everything," Jean-Baptiste said. "It's great just to think about. I mean it is all so much easier now and much more fun."
It has been a long journey for this former walk-on, but with bowl game aspirations and dreams of playing in the NFL, much is to be done within the program for Jean-Baptiste. However, it is a little bit hard not to look back at what has been accomplished and not be proud of it all.
"It's great to finally get recognition for all of the hard work that we put in," Jean-Baptiste said.
Nicolas Jean-Baptiste's experience at Baylor has given him some life lessons and made a huge impact on his life, but this is not to say that he did not accept every challenge and prosper for doing so.
"It's been a long journey here, and the biggest thing I have learned is patience," Jean-Baptiste said. "Now, I know that whenever opportunity knocks, you take it."