They call him Ron Burgundy, cowboy, and occasionally when he steps to the free-throw line, “MVP.”
Yes, small-town Ron Baker is taking Madison Square Garden by storm much like Jeremy Lin did in 2012 but the Wichita State product isn’t forgetting his roots despite the bright New York City lights.
“All the small-town cliches, those are legit with me,” Baker told Bleacher Report about growing up in Scott City, Kan., a town of just under 4,000 people. His Knicks teammates often remind him that he’s an “awe shucks” country boy.
“This organization is special,” he said in a statement. “It was different. In other organizations, they might know you, who you are. They might have heard of you, but they don’t value you as a person. They care about me here not as a veteran, not as a football player, not as a MBA candidate. They care about me as a person.”
Villanueva played all 16 games in 2015, starting the final 10, before starting all 16 contests in 2016. He was responsible for allowing only 17 sacks last season, which is the fewest of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s career.
“I personally take pride in executing to the best of my abilities for the expectations Coach (Mike) Munchak has for myself and I think that is the same for everybody,” Villanueva said. “Protecting Ben is very important. He is our quarterback. He is a guy we respect, love to play for, he is a guy that inspires us, drives the offense, the team. We understand the urgency to protect him.”
Villanueva, 28, went undrafted in the 2010 NFL Draft but signed with the Eagles in May 2014. He was eventually waived by Philadelphia in August 2014 but signed with Pittsburgh eight days later after catching the attention of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.