Now this is a Wildcats team Lute Olsen would be proud of. Unfortunately for basketball fans it is the Arizona football that is excelling. Is Arizona becoming a football school? Maybe. We found Jake Baratz a Red Shirt Freshman (with a Jewish father) and asked him all about the team and his football career. Jake is a nice guy with a bright future. And of course has those all important Illinois roots.
1) Tell the TGR world about yourself?
– My name is Jake Baratz, I’m a 20 year old RS freshman at the University of Arizona. Originally from Naperville, IL. My major is pre-business, and as of right now i’m just taking every day as it comes, trying to live life to the fullest.
2) You said your father is Jewish and from Aurora, what is Jewish life like in Aurora?
-I think that pretty much everywhere in the western suburbs as well as the north shore of Chicago has a pretty big jewish community, with very outspoken and supportive people. Growing up I had a lot of friends of different religion as well as ethnicity and it was never really a big factor.
3) Speaking of Aurora, do you love the Wayne’s World movies.
-When I was younger I was pretty much obsessed with them, just because I knew they were based and filmed so close to home.
4) You are from Illinois and I assume you have spent some time in Chicago. What is your favorite Chicago pizza?
-There’s no questions about it… Lou Malnati’s is the only way to go with pizza in the city. I’ve heard a lot of opinions, but as far as credibility goes I’d trust the 285 lb offensive lineman about food before anyone else. I actually have the Pizza Wars: New York vs. Chicago on travel channel dvr’d because it airs during practice. TOTAL dedication.
5) Back to football. Arizona is ranked 14th in about every poll. What is it like playing for such a highly ranked team?
-This is the highest ranking we’ve been since the ’90’s I think so it’s a new feeling for everyone in the locker room from 5th years to freshman. It’s definitely a gratifying feeling to know that all your hard work is definitely paying off, but the coaches do a good job of keeping us in perspective and making sure it doesn’t get to our head too much. We all know that all the hard work everyone’s put in over their time spent here to earn that ranking can be negated in one game.
6) Do you think Arizona has a legit shot at a BCS game?
-I fully believe that we have a more than legitimate shot at a BCS bowl. Every time we break a huddle its real simple: “Rose Bowl”. It’s not just something we say, but everyone on the team is fully on board in truly believing in our shot at the Rose bowl. In order to get into a position to even play you have to be a pretty competitive person, and we have a REAL competitive locker room, and I think that leads to everyones strong feelings.
7) Arizona has always been known as a basketball school. How has the fan support been now that there seems to have been a shift in attention?
-Even since i’ve been here for recruiting up until now, i’ve seen a dramatic change in attention for our program. Everyone’s always known about the ZonaZoo, which is one of the best student sections i’ve ever seen, but it’s the rest of the stadium that has improved as well. We’ve either sold out or been near sell-out every game this season, which is definitely something new for us. Another big change is the intensity of the fans. This year it’s been a whole new feeling, running out from the locker room after halftime and still seeing a full stadium of people ready to go for the second half. Tucson has great wildcat fans, and I think that the entire city is finally starting to buy into our program just like we are.
8) Who is the best player you have gotten a chance to play with during your career?
– The best player that i’ve ever played against is definitely big Earl (Earl Mitchell). He was a third round draft pick this year for Houston. He was playing D-tackle for the starting defense when I was in my redshirt year and on scout team. The difference between playing high school defensive players and then jumping in and getting mauled by Earl everyday was terrifying. Earl’s one of the best, and smartest guys I know as well, it’s safe to say that i’d probably have gotten in a lot more trouble if it weren’t for Earl essentially being the voice of reason to cancel out the freshman in college on my opposite shoulder. As far as playing WITH guys, I would say that Colin Baxter is that guy. Colin is pretty much the standard “old guy” that I go to whenever I need something. He’s been around a while and has taught me the way that stuff works on and off the field, and in the making has become one of my good friends on the team.
9) Mid season will be a major test as the Wilcats are @ UCLA, @ Stanford, home for USC, and @ Oregon. What will that stretch be like and how do you think you will fair?
-Those are definitely all really great teams and the Rose Bowl, and Autzen are obviously some of the most renowned stadiums in the country, and with the resurgence of Stanford’s programs people are jumping on board in NorCal, so those are definitely all really tough road games. It doesn’t help that two of them are in the top 10 right now either. I really like the SC matchup at home, The colliseum is a another place that’s typically hard to play at, so it’s good we have them at home. I think if we can play like we think we can in the first two games, getting SC at home will really energize Tucson, especially with the implications that will be on that game if we are where we want to be in that point in the season. Practice is definitely going to be extra focused and crisp during that stretch.
10) When you have a schedule like that, how do you remain focused week after week?
-I think the easiest way is focusing all week to do what you need to do in the game, and then after it happens, it’s over. The coaches do a good job of making sure that we don’t dwell on a game (win or loss) into the next week. We’re always busy and we know that keeping good focus on the next game, and preparing both mentally and physically is the key to victory. We’re a good team, but we can never just walk into a game and assume we’re going to win, and that the other team is going to give us the game, regardless of opponent. At this level everyone has the athletes, and coaches to win any game, so being better prepared than the other team is what’s going to get it done.
11) What are your future goals? Is the NFL a possibility?
-Right now I’m kind of just trying to figure out what I want to do. I have to apply for the business school pretty soon, so maybe then I’ll figure out what specific major I want to go into. I’ve always been known as a little high maintenance, and even our landlord calls my roommates and I “princesses”, I just hope that whatever I do I am able to support my “princess” lifestyle. The NFL is always a possibility, it’s a great opportunity, and if it presents itself I would love to embrace it. As of now, that’s a little to far down the line, I’m usually the one who just enjoys every day, and tries to turn every situation into something fun and make sure the people around me are smiling, so I’m not too concerned about that right now.
Thanks again to Jake.
And Let Us Say…Amen.