Hank Baskett accomplished on, off field

Freedom New Mexico

Thousands of residents across eastern New Mexico — even some non-football fans — will pay close attention to today’s Super Bowl game. That’s because we’re hoping to see one of our own do well.

Hank Baskett III will be living the childhood dream of many boys when he becomes the first Clovis native to step onto the NFL’s biggest stage.

Baskett is a backup wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts and plays on their special teams.

Hopefully he’ll make a key block or tackle — or even catch a touchdown pass — in today’s game and inspire us all to cheer and rise in unison from our couches, recliners and bar stools.

But even if he doesn’t grab the spotlight this Super Sunday, this is a good time to remember his athletic accomplishments already have surpassed more than most people dream about doing:

• He starred in football, basketball and track at Clovis High. He cleared 7 feet in the high jump as a junior to win the state title. We still smile thinking about his father, Hank Baskett Jr., standing nearby and singing the words to R. Kelley’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”

• Predominantly a quarterback in high school, Baskett became an all-conference wide receiver at the University New Mexico. To do it he had to overcome a debilitating spinal injury his freshman year that left him paralyzed for a little while.

• He landed a job with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent who was traded by the team that initially signed him. The odds of making an NFL roster have been estimated at 1 in 87,000 people.

• He was named the NFL’s Rookie of the Week twice and finished season one with 33 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns. One TD of 87 yards helped beat the Dallas Cowboys. For his career he has 76 catches for 1,080 yards and six TDs.

However, Baskett is not just one of the most accomplished athletes Clovis has ever produced. His parents, Hank Jr. and Judy, are more proud that he’s grown into a humble public servant.

He spends countless hours promoting causes, especially the Oasis Children’s Advocacy Center in Clovis that his father runs. Hank III supports it with an annual golf tournament here.

Mike Hankins, longtime Clovis assistant track and basketball coach, said every year Hank donates autographed jerseys, photos and such — along with items from his teammates — to Special Olympics. That’s because Hankins has a special-needs daughter.

During the offseason, Baskett visits local schools and talks to students about the importance of an education and staying in school. This, like most of Baskett’s community service work, is done without media fanfare.

A husband and father now, he and reality TV star Kendra Wilkinson have a 7-week-old son. And Hank is a proud military son. A story on NFLplayers.com reports that Baskett, whose father is a retired Air Force veteran, says two prayers before every game. One is for the safety of the players on the field, the other for the men and women serving in the U.S. armed services.

“It’s just a prayer to let them come home,” he said. “Just to help them sleep a little better (since) they don’t know what’s going to happen the next morning.”

Hank Baskett III may not make the highlight reels following today’s Super Bowl. But he exemplifies a role model we’re proud to call our own.