“Basketball is my first love because it was my first sport. I will always miss basketball.”
Those are the words of Jonathan Baldwin, who is joining the Chiefs and the National Football League with basketball nowhere to be seen. It’s just football, in the role of a first-round draft choice and what the folks in Kansas City hope is an infusion of talent into the team’s offense.
Funny, but it was about four years ago to the day that Baldwin decided the oblong ball was his future, rather than the round ball.
“It was after the NFL Draft and I decided I was going to go for football,” Baldwin recalled back in the summer of 2007. “If I had a good college career in football I think I probably had a better chance than if I played basketball. I always thought about the NBA, all the time. I never really thought about football, NFL football. I’d probably pick basketball (if I could go to pros in both), but I’m going for football so I got to love it.
“This is what I do now,” Baldwin said. “I definitely love it now.”
Here’s his story.
Jonathan Dupree Baldwin
Born β August 10, 1989 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
Family β Parents are Jeffery and Tezmalita Baldwin. He has two sisters.
Dad played defensive line at the University of Pittsburgh, earning letters in 1981 and 1982. He was part of the Panthers team in ’81 under head coach Jackie Sherrill and QB Dan Marino that went 11-1 and beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and finished second in the final Associated Press college football. He played in a Cotton Bowl loss to SMU in 1982, which was Marino’s final game in college football.
Cousin Ty Law (left) had a long and very successful career in the NFL with the Patriots, Jets and Chiefs. Law graduated from Aliquippa High and went to Pitt.
Cousin Charles Fisher played DB at West Virginia (1995-98). Fisher played one game with the Cincinnati Bengals and suffered a career ending knee injury.
YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN
Baldwin grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, a once thriving center for steel making located on the Ohio River about 25 miles downriver from Pittsburgh. Built in 1906, the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company had a huge steel mill on the banks of the Ohio River. At one time employment at the J&L Aliquippa Works (pictured below) sustained a population of over 27,000 in the town of Aliquippa alone.
By the end of the 1970s, American steel making was disappearing due to cheap imports from around the world. The Aliquippa Works officially closed in 1984, with the last works inside the building shutting down in 2000.
The 2010 census reported 9,438 people living in Aliquippa.
Baldwin was part of the graduating class of 2008 at Aliquippa High School, part of the Aliquippa School District in Beaver County, Pa. Enrollment at AHS in 2010 was just 329 students in grades 9 through 12. There were only 32 males in the 2010 graduating class. Further declines are predicted and will likely lead to closing the high school by the end of the decade.
At a high school with a lengthy pedigree of athletic success, Baldwin was one of the most successful and honored athletes in the school’s history. As a senior, he earned Class AA first-team all-state honors in both football and basketball. He also won several gold medals at the state track championships. He received multiple scholarship offers in both football and basketball
Baldwin played three seasons of football for the Indians or Quips as they are called, playing for Coach Mike Zmijanac. Baldwin played tight end, wide receiver and linebacker over his career. By the time was done, he earned all-state second team (2006) and first team (2007) honors in Class AA. He was named to the Pennsylvania squad for the annual Big 33 Game, one of the most prestigious all-star games on the high school level; Baldwin caught a TD pass in that game. He also caught a touchdown pass in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
2007 β He led the Quips to a 9-3 season and they made the WPIAL Class AA playoffs but lost to Jeannette High. In that game, Baldwin caught six passes for 180 yards and 3 TDs. On the season, Baldwin caught 41 passes for 613 yards and 9 TDs.
2006 β AHS finished 10-1 and made the WPIAL playoffs, before losing to Jeannette High 18-13. Baldwin played tight end and caught 21 passes for 470 yards with 5 TDs.
Baldwin won four letters at Aliquippa High in basketball and was part of several teams that were among the best schoolboy teams in recent years in western Pennsylvania. The 2006-07 Quips lost in the Class AA state championship game to Penn Charter.
2007-08 – As a senior in the 2007-08 season, Baldwin averaged 21.9 points and 8.6 rebounds a game and Aliquippa finished 16-9.
2006-07 – In his junior season, he averaged better than 22 points per game and led the Quips to the Class AA state championship game, where they lost to Penn Charter High School. They won the WPIAL title that year, beating a Jeannette High team that was led by another junior, Terrelle Pryor β now the QB at Ohio State. The Quips finished that season 30-3.
2008 β Aliquippa repeated as the class AA 400-meter relay champions, with Baldwin running the second leg. Their best time was 42.46 seconds. Baldwin also walked away with a medal for his fifth-place showing in the 100 meters, where he ran a 10.9 to qualify.
2007 β The Quips won the class AA 400-meter relay, with Baldwin running in the third position, finishing in a time of 42.8 seconds.
In football, all the major scouting services rated him a five-star recruit and among the top 10 receivers coming out of high school football in 2008. Thus he received scholarship offers from more than 40 schools. He narrowed the field to Florida, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame and Southern Cal. He committed to Pitt in the fall of 2007 and signed his letter of intent on February 6, 2008.
LIFE AFTER ALIQUIPPA COMING NEXT