Living the dream

Hank Baskett shows how he caught a pass in an NFC playoff game against the Saints. The catch, which would have kept Philadelphia’s last-minute drive alive, was negated by a penalty. New Orleans escaped with a 27-24 win. (CNJ staff 0photo: Rick White)

By Rick White: CNJ Managing Editor

Hank Baskett describes his rookie season in the NFL as a blur.

Even his first touchdown — an 87-yard catch and run that helped Philadelphia beat the Dallas Cowboys — is hard to recall, he said.

“I’ve been describing it for people. I tell them I can remember 10 percent of it. The other 90 percent comes at you so fast and goes by you so fast. It’s gone like that.

“On the TD catch, I could have run another 20 miles because of the adrenaline rushing through my body. It was the biggest rush of my life, and I can’t even remember it because it happens like that (snapping his fingers).”

Baskett entertained Clovis Rotary Club members Thursday with additional tales from an up-and-down season that included going from an undrafted free agent to twice being name the NFL rookie of the week.

Philadelphia fans
He called them the “best-worst” in the NFL.

“If you’re down at halftime, they’ll boo you,” said Baskett, a 2001 Clovis High graduate. “It’s easier to play on the road because you expect them to boo you. At home, it’s like, ‘Man they’re booing us already? If you don’t get a first down on the first series, they’ll boo you.”

Feeling small
At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he’s small compared to the linemen.

“They’re monsters. It starts with the center and he’s 6-5. Then it goes 6-6, 6-7, 6-7 and 6-8. There’s one guy, I actually sit in the meetings sometimes and think, ‘Man, they going to have to make a special coffin for this guy.’ … Tra Thomas is really that big.”

It’s a job
Baskett said playing in the NFL is a full-time job.

“A day up there is a workday. I’m up at 6:30 and get home around 5:30 every day.”

And then there’s training camp.

“I’d get home and I’d be so sore that I couldn’t even lay down in my bed. That was 14 hours of straight football. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

He said the experience made him a better player and person.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you better. It came close to killing me, though.”

On the run
Baskett called draft day the toughest day in his life. Predicted to go in the middle rounds, Baskett went undrafted out of the University of New Mexico.

Clovis assistant track and football coach Mike Hankins helped Baskett deal with the disappointment. The father of a mentally and physically challenged daughter, Hankins told Baskett they had a 24-hour grieving rule in their house.

About hour 21, Baskett said he called his father to tell him he was going for a run.

“We live near James Bickley and I ran to Colonial Park. I owe my dad big time because I had the energy to make it to Colonial Park, but I had to get a ride back.”

In his hands
Baskett said Eagles head coach Andy Reid told him during his end-of-the-season exit interview that if he showed up with the same desire he would set himself up for a good season. He said he told Baskett the big thing he needed to work on was his quickness.

“He said if I can do that I can be one of the players who decides when they want to walk away from the game instead of somebody else deciding. That meant a lot.”

Hitting home
Baskett said it wasn’t until he got on the plane for Clovis after the season was over that what he had done his first season hit him.

“No matter what, from this day forward, even if I never take another snap, I have one NFL season under my belt and I set a record my rookie year. It’s crazy.”

Coach’s comment
“The thing about Hank is he’s always been able to overcome adversity,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said.

At a glance
Philly bound

—A rookie free agent signee of the Vikings, Baskett was acquired by Philadelphia in a trade

Season stats
—Caught 22 passes for 464 yards and two touchdowns.

Elite company
—Baskett became the second rookie in NFL history to post two touchdown receptions of 85 yards-or-more (89 and 87) in a single season since Green Bay’s Billy Howton did so in 1952.
—Among NFL wide receivers with at least 20 receptions in 2006, Baskett ranked second with 21.1 yards per catch behind Saints WR Devery Henderson (23.3)

Honors
—Was named NFL Rookie of the Week twice.

On the ’Net
Hank Baskett spoke to the Clovis Rotary Club on Thursday. See what he had to say in our latest video at www.cnjonline.com