CRANBERRY TWP — Sports and Angela Baker just seem to belong together.
A Carlynton High School graduate and Cranberry Township resident, Baker grew up playing flag football and was a basketball and softball player in high school.
“When I wasn't playing, I was usually watching a game,” Baker said.
A student at Slippery Rock University, Baker was attending a basketball game in 2010 when she saw an advertisement posted about tryouts for the Pittsburgh Passion women's football team.
That was 10 years ago.
She's still playing.
After seven years as a wide receiver for the Passion, Baker took over as quarterback for the team in 2019. Lisa Horton, an SRU graduate and the only quarterback in Passion history, retired following the 2018 season. She became the team's offensive coordinator.
Baker went on to throw for 1,688 yards and 23 touchdowns, ran for 361 yards and seven TDs in leading the Passion into the Women's Football Alliance playoffs last year. The Passion wound up with a 7-3 record, losing in the NWA semifinals.
She was going to return for her ninth season this year, second as the team's quarterback.
“The virus got in the way of all that,” Baker said as the 2020 NWA season was canceled.
But Baker's future in the sport is very much in the works.
She will be a senior at SRU this fall and is on pace to graduate next spring as a physical activity and fitness management major with a minor in coaching.
“I plan on playing for the Passion again next year unless my career and life take me in a different direction,” Baker said.
That direction could be coaching. She has already coached football at the middle school level and has helped coach women's football clinics hosted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Football took my focus away from my classwork for a while,” Baker said in explaining a three-year hiatus from school. “I learned what I wanted to do — coach football at the collegiate level.”
Baker recently spent three weeks in virtual Zoom meetings with the Cleveland Browns coaching staff as part of the NFL's Bill Walsh Diversity Coach Fellowship program. She was one of six aspiring coaches — including two women — to join the meetings as part of the fellowship.
Callie Brownson — a teammate of Baker's on Team USA in international football — is the Browns' chief of staff and referred Baker to the fellowship program.
“Women's football has opened a lot of doors in terms of opportunities in the coaching profession,” Baker said. “Women can certainly know the game from the mental and strategic aspects, but it helps to have actually played it as well.”
Baker sat in on Browns' meetings from her Cranberry Township home. Those meetings covered film study, the playbook, rule changes and position meetings.
She was able to learn coaching techniques from Browns offensive coordinator and former Pitt quarterback Alex Van Pelt.
“That was fascinating,” Baker said. “I learned so much from him. Being part of those meetings showed me that even at the pro level, they go back to basics. And the players have workouts and film sessions they're responsible for, almost like homework.
“I was impressed how much the Browns got accomplished without ever physically getting together.”
The virtual meetings were in mid-June and included four hours a day.
There are seven women employed as full-time coaches in the NFL, including Brownson and former women's football players Katie Sowers (Kansas City) with the 49ers and Jennifer King (North Carolina) with Washington.
“I'm interested in coaching in college because I want to help young people prepare for their careers while working with football,” Baker said. “The level of program makes no difference to me.
“I'd love to coach at a program the size of USC, sure. But Slippery Rock has a great football program, too. I wouldn't mind coaching right here. I'd be very interested in that.”