Former Washington Huskies safety Budda Baker is one of many reasons the 2017 NFL Draft has a loaded safety class. He went off the board on Friday night in the second round, the 36th overall pick by the Cardinals. He’s good.
He also has a really unique name.
Budda’s birth name is “Bishard,” but he’s been going by Budda since his childhood.
So, what’s the backstory behind this unique name?
There are some conflicting stories out there, as far as who actually gave him the nickname. The Seattle Times says his mother gave him the nickname that eventually everyone in high school was using, when he was a two-star track and football star.
When Baker was born, his mother, Michelle, thought he looked like a “little Buddha doll.”
The name stuck — minus the H.
“It’s my name now,” he said. “I don’t really like being called Bishard.”
But according to Fox Sports, his aunt gave him the nickname. The one part of these stories that remains the same is that it all goes back to his resemblance to a doll.
His aunt dubbed him Budda when he was a little kid because "I was short, had a big belly and my eyes are slanted." The nickname stuck. So much so that someone in high school once thought he actually had a twin brother named Bishard. He admits he hasn’t done much research into the real Buddha other knowing him as "The Enlightened One."
The nickname stuck, even though the “H” didn’t.
Just like his name, the former Washington safety is an eye-catching talent.
Baker’s draft stock may be high now because of what he did at Washington, but he was a highly-touted prospect as a recruit, too. According to the 247Sports Composite, Baker was the No. 1 prospect from the state of Washington and the No. 6 ranked “athlete,” or player without a designated position, nationally. His days at Bellevue High School featured three straight Class 3A state titles, and Baker was named The Associated Press and Seattle Times State Player of the Year in 2013. He also participated in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which features the nation’s top recruits each year on the rosters.
Baker was actually committed to play at Oregon during his recruiting process. He visited Washington in Jan. 2014, and on Signing Day the next month, he signed with the Huskies. When Chris Petersen’s staff arrived in Seattle in 2013, it made landing Baker the top priority.
“It was the No. 1 thing we had to get done when we first arrived here,” co-defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake said via ESPN. “All you had to do was watch the tape -- he was a once-in-a-decade type of a player.”
Once Baker got to UW, he started all three seasons from 2014-16, including as a true freshman. During his Huskies career he totaled 200 tackles, along with 13.5 for a loss.