When Northern Arizona junior Jonathan Baldwin arrived at Alex G. Spanos Stadium to play Cal Poly on Saturday afternoon, he got a homecoming welcome to remember. The moment he stepped off the bus, he was greeted by more than 100 tailgating friends and family — most of which were wearing NAU T-shirts with Baldwin’s No. 89 on the back.
“I haven’t played in front of all those people since high school,” Baldwin said after the game. “To be able to come back and play in my home county again was absolutely amazing.”
When the game started, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Paso Robles High School graduate gave them plenty to cheer about. Baldwin had three catches for 41 yards including a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter to help lead NAU to a convincing 28-10 win over Cal Poly.
“I definitely wanted to show the fans from high school that I was still making plays,” Baldwin said.
Those same fans watched Baldwin during his senior season at Paso Robles in 2014 when the Bearcats won a CIF-Southern Section Northern Division Championship on a mud-soaked field — a game in which Baldwin scored on a 34-yard touchdown.
When Baldwin scored again Saturday, his cheering section went wild, including his father Rob, a Cal Poly graduate.
“We have been waiting for this day,” said Rob Baldwin, who was in charge of making and distributing the 60 NAU Baldwin T-shirts. “My dad was an alumnus, my younger brother too, and for him to play here is pretty special.”
Jonathan Baldwin’s mom, Patti Baldwin, called it a “once in a lifetime experience.”
“It’s the only game he’ll play here, so we are so excited,” Patti said. “We had so many people that wanted to come, and they all kept saying, ‘How do we get tickets?’ He is well loved here.”
The proud parents, who have traveled to every one of their son’s games during his college career, have watched him develop into a go-to weapon for NAU quarterback Case Cookus. Outside of the touchdown against Cal Poly, Baldwin’s two other catches went for first downs. He is the second-leading receiver for the Lumberjacks through three games this season with six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Baldwin loves the fact his parents have been there to see it all.
“That’s huge,” he said. “I love seeing them every weekend.”