YAC Yaks: The Rider’s Kian Schaffer-Baker talks football, family and faith

Lyrics by Daniella Ponticelli

Kian Schaffer-Baker stands out on the football pitch and is usually last after a game.

The 24-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. don’t shy away from giving young fans some time at Mosaic Stadium, signing jerseys and passing out playing gloves, whatever the weather. He even stopped once at a park in Regina to throw soccer balls with kids practicing their skills.

“I take 30 minutes just to say hello and meet new people, and I hope it impacts them,” he said.

“As much as it makes their day, it makes mine all the more just meeting all these people and seeing their smiles and all the questions they have to ask.”

(Pictured: fan signing in the cold – late November 2021)

It didn’t take long for Rider Nation to get on board with the dynamic receiver, whose name is appearing on more fan jerseys and serving as a delicious and well-known nickname.

“My first football coach, he called me ‘Shake ‘n Bake.’ So the fact that it’s going this far is crazy. I love it,” he said.

Aside from his friendly nature, Schaffer-Baker is aggressive with his drive to be the best. His high-flying athletic catches and consistent yardage afterward earned him praise in the league.

“One thing my college coach always said was, ‘Always make the first guy miss.’ So after you miss the first guy, you might as well miss the second,” he said with a laugh.

In his first eight games of the 2022 regular season, Schaffer-Baker has 215 receiving yards (YAC). That’s just short of his YAC rookie tally of 231 in 12 regular season games.

(Photo: Kian Schaffer-Baker carries the ball and half a dozen Ottawa Redblacks players to Mosaic Stadium on July 11, 2022)

Still, it’s surreal for the young Mississauga to see his name on a CFL jersey.

Mum Lisa Schaffer said Kian first wanted to play football when he was four, watching his older brother at the time, but had to wait until he was nine to join a junior club.

“We had a schedule that every year we were going, ‘Okay, a year closer to you playing football,'” she said. “He always said, ‘I want to be a professional football player. Even in kindergarten.

When the time finally came, Lisa remembered signing a waiver because Kian was so undersized. He remained the smallest player as he progressed to college level, often sitting out as other older, taller players got reps.

“But he sat on the bench and he watched, he knew what everyone was doing. He just bided his time until it was his to shine,” she said. “What really amazes me is that it’s all his work, his dedication. He always wanted to go to training.

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(Photo: Kian and mom young / Kian and mom at play)
(Left) Lisa Schaffer and her son Kian Schaffer-Baker who received the 2016 Rookie of the Year award for the Guelph Gryphons. (Right) A crossed out bucket list item for Schaffer-Baker as he delivers a CFL game ball to mom Lisa after a touchdown at Mosaic Stadium on July 8, 2022.

Schaffer-Baker lights up when he talks about his mother, who was single-parenting three kids at the time, and her determination to help them succeed.

“I could probably count on my hand how many games she missed growing up,” he said. “She always found a way to put our priorities first. His hard work and determination on a daily basis have been passed on to me and that inspires me.

Schaffer-Baker’s perseverance has not gone unnoticed by coaches and others with a way to help him along the way. When Lisa was working weekends, her high school football coach, Patrick McCallion, would take her on college tours. He bonded with the likes of former CFL defensive back Shea Pierre, who showed him how professional athletes train and helped fuel his dream.

Schaffer-Baker eventually played USports football with the University of Guelph Gryphons from 2016 to 2019. He finished with 95 receptions for 1,544 yards and eight touchdowns in 28 games.

(Photo: Young Kian/Kian & HS Football Coach)
(Right) Kian Schaffer-Baker in 2007, finally playing with Streetsville Meadowvale Football Club in Missisauga, Ont. (Left) Schaffer-Baker playing for the University of Guelph poses with his high school football coach Patrick McCallion, who took him on many college tours while mom Lisa was working.

Despite not being invited to the 2020 CFL Combine, Schaffer-Baker was drafted in the fourth round, 30th overall, by the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The canceled pandemic season postponed his rookie season to 2021, where he recorded 47 receptions for 563 yards and two touchdowns in 12 regular season games.

“It’s a new house, it’s a different house. But he’s the one I’ve embraced and grown to love and he shares a special place in my heart with all these new people and new memories I’ve made here,” he said. .

Now in his second year, Schaffer-Baker believes the Riders 2022 receiving corps are particularly close, going out for weekly dinners and finding ways to connect as friends.

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“We have such a great group of guys up and down. Let it start with our receiving coach and then all the way to the new guys who came to join the team. We are so tight,” he said.

“We always pull ourselves together and help each other become the best version of ourselves. That’s what we have to do to win championships.

(Photo: high-five with number 5 Duke Williams)
Kian Schaffer-Baker (right) celebrates with Riders wide receiver Duke Williams at Mosaic Stadium.

Another glue that ties the 2022 Saskatchewan Roughriders team together is faith.

Schaffer-Baker said there is a group that regularly studies the Bible and attends church services when time permits. Otherwise, they participate in online services. Each game day, team chaplain Jared LaCoste leads a special prayer with a small group of players to give strength and guidance to the team.

“Then when we pray as a team. We are just going to say ‘Our Father’ and recite it all together, before we go to war against each other,” he said.

“It’s something that I really appreciate. (Faith) definitely calms you down and that’s the only reason I’m personally, and all of us, are out there playing football – because God has blessed us with the opportunity to go there- down.

(Photo: field prayer photo)
(L to R) Kian Schaffer-Baker prays with Rider chaplain Jared LaCoste and quarterback Cody Fajardo on the field at Mosaic Stadium on July 8, 2022.

For his first home in the CFL, Schaffer-Baker said he was pleased with the “phenomenal” work of head coach Craig Dickenson.

“He really cares about us deep down. How are we, how is our mental health, how is our well-being,” he said. “There are so many little factors that play into what we do every day and he looks at all of them.”

Although he scored many touchdowns in many places, Schaffer-Baker said there was something electrifying about the thundering sound of Mosaic Stadium.

“There is no better feeling. All the rumble and shaking of the whole stadium and then give them a little dance or something just to drive them even crazier,” he said, adding that he is always grateful to the fans who show up, whether it’s a game or a practice.

“We are so grateful for that. And that’s another reason why we’re going so hard and hoping to lift this Gray Cup on November 20 in front of all of our amazing fans.

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