November 28, 2003 at 9:33 a.m.
Britt Baumann and the North Branch Viking football staff knew that too well. In this case, that was fine with them. Considering what Baumann has gone through over the past six months, even being named Honorable Mention would be a tremendous accomplishment. So when his dad pulled him out of the bathroom last week to tell his son that he had been named to the Associated Press All-State first team as a kicker, Britt just smiled and walked away. Nothing was said, by anybody. After all, how could you sum up something like this in words?
“Yah, I was pretty excited,” said Britt. “I just wanted to do what I do and if it happened great.”
Typical Britt, modest to a fault.
“We were hoping Honorable Mention,” said Bill Baumann, Britt’s dad and North Branch football offensive coordinator. “He just got a big smile on his face. I told him, see, hard work does pay off.”
To be fair, the work Britt had to do to get to first team status wasn’t hard, it was gut-wrenching- next to impossible. Many will tell you that they didn’t think he could do it but Britt did.
Everything was rolling along fine for Baumann until last June when everything changed. Playing in a basketball tournament, the senior went down like a ton of bricks. The diagnosis was almost as painful as the injury itself. A torn ACL, at the minimum 6-8 weeks recovery time, and that was being generous.
But wait, football was two months away! Baumann’s dream of a dominating senior season, college scholarships, and state records were hanging by a thread....along with his leg.
“I didn’t figure he would able to kick until the middle of the season,” remarked Bill Baumann. “Instead, he was back and kicked the game winning field goal against Milaca. He proved everyone wrong with hard work. We didn’t think he would be back that fast but he was.”
“I didn’t know if I was going to make it back, I thought I actually might be done with football,” remembered Britt. “They didn’t even let me start kicking until a week before practice and even that was kicks of 10 yards. After that though, each week it got better and my knee got stronger.”
While most kids his age were lighting up the town on Friday nights, Britt spent his summer vacation engaged in a furious rehabilitaion program. Lunges, running and weight lifting occupied his days and nights.
“Boy, it will go with him for the rest of his life, how he didn’t quit, didn’t give up,” said Joel Swanson, North Branch football head coach. “He could have easily given up but he didn’t. I don’t think I could have done it at his age. It showed remarkable work ethic and character to fight his way back.”
Or kick his way back. His numbers spoke for themselves in 2003. Among them, four field goals of 40 yards or more this season and a kick-off average of more than 50 yards. Certainly numbers that rival, if not surpass some of the best kickers in the state. His place on the first team is certainly warranted, and so is the praise that goes along with it. But, this accomplishment goes well beyond the numbers.
“I don’t care what sport you’re talking about, Britt is just such a great kid,” commented Swanson. “To mentally overcome what he did, seeing your dream possibly blow up in front of your face, overcoming everything to reach your goal, he’s just such a special young man and a great role model.”