Ex-Texas Tech RB Baron Batch finding life after football


Football is king, a religion, and a way of life in Texas, where winning a championship at any level is the ultimate goal.

But for former Texas Tech running back Baron Batch, there are bigger accomplishments he’s after than getting in the end zone.

Batch grew up in the West Texas football town of Midland. He now resides in Pittsburgh, the city that owns the most Vince Lombardi Trophies, but the game is the last thing he’s thinking about these days.

Instead of lowering his head to make another first down on the field, Batch is using it to make something more valuable to him.

“I started picking up art at the same time as I was playing in the NFL,” he said. “It’s better than any type of sport or any amount of yards I could get. I get paid to sit around and think.

“Over the last four years, I’ve probably done more than 400 paintings. I haven’t been painting that long, but I’ve been painting a lot.”

Although he’s not showing off his skills on the field anymore, he still uses football as an inspiration in showing off what he can now do on a canvas.

But he’s not just painting. Batch is working on various creative projects which include, writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, working with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he’s started his own catering service.

Batch was a Texas Tech fan favorite during his time in Lubbock from 2006-10, and he’s the only running back from the Mike Leach era to be selected in the NFL Draft.

But after a short, injury-plagued career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, walking away from the game last year was an easy decision.

“I blew out my knee on the last play of the last practice before the first [2011] preseason game,” he said. “It was a bummer, but I wanted to turn it into something. That’s when I started painting.

“Before I got cut by the Steelers, I went to coach [Mike] Tomlin and said ‘I really don’t think I want to do this anymore.'”

There were still opportunities to continue playing, but Batch had already made up his mind that his dreams didn’t include wearing pads and a helmet on Sundays.

“I turned down a few calls,” he said. “The Packers called and wanted to sign me. I told them I was painting and making salsa and they said I was crazy.

“Now I’m an artist with the salsa company and doing what I want to do. I’m a full-time entrepreneur. I’m doing my art and just started an ad agency and it’s been awesome.”

The Packers weren’t the only ones to call Batch “crazy.” Many in his life weren’t happy with his decision to give up the game.

“A lot of people were more upset about it than I was,” he said. “I’m not upset. I’m doing what I want to do. A lot of people supported me for the wrong reasons, and a lot of those people kind of disappeared.

“If a team calls and says they’d give me $100 million tomorrow to come play, I’d tell them ‘no thank you.’ I just don’t want to do that. It’s not about money. It’s about me doing what I want to do and be able to make a living doing what I want to do.”

The NFL is the goal for most who grow up playing football in Texas. But while many have reached that milestone, most careers are short-lived. Batch didn’t want that to be his life accomplishment.

“I’m not just that football player who is sitting around in a transitional phase, letting his money diminish that he saved up,” he said. “I’m out there hustling and making moves. I’m 26 years old and there’s just no way that I’ve hit the pinnacle.

“I’ve played in a league that everyone sees as so extravagant. I had a great time, but it’s just not as great as everyone thinks it is.”

Batch has found his life’s calling. And while scoring touchdowns at Jones AT&T Stadium with his teammates was a memorable experience, he doesn’t want you to think of him as just No. 25 in scarlet and black.

“I’m not the football player turned painter,” he said. “Now I’m an artist turned businessman. At the end of the day I always saw myself as that, and it just took a while for everyone else to see that.”

Follow Louis Ojeda Jr. on Twitter @LouisOjedaJr