ATHENS, Ga. -- Former Auburn University wide receiver Robert Baker became part of University of Georgia lore nearly two decades ago when UGA mascot Uga V lunged at him after he scored a touchdown.
The iconic photograph that captured the moment in 1996 has been widely displayed by UGA fans and a video of the near attack has been played on the video board at Sanford Stadium.
Now, after a brief and disappointing NFL career marred by drug arrests, Baker faces a possible penalty of life in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to federal heroin trafficking and firearms charges.
Baker, 37, was stopped by a Lowndes County sheriff’s deputy on Jan. 20 because his car’s windows were illegally tinted, according to court records. The deputy noticed a large amount of cash in the car and a subsequent search turned up 59.5 grams of heroin and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.
As part of his plea of guilty on Tuesday, Baker admitted he possessed the heroin for distribution and he was carrying the pistol in furtherance of his drug trafficking crime, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.
“Mr. Baker made a terrible mistake when he chose to traffic illegal drugs, and particularly when he brought a gun along to help him do so,” U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said in the release. “He will have a long time to reflect on that mistake in federal prison.”
Baker only played two years at Auburn before he was declared academically ineligible prior to the 1997 season. He played for a few years with the Miami Dolphins and professionally in Europe and Canada.
Authorities said Baker began his life as a drug dealer in 1998, but he entered UGA history two years earlier.
The 1996 Auburn-Georgia game, the 100th in the series, was an epic battle still talked about to this day. The Bulldogs — some say inspired by their mascot — staged an amazing comeback and tied the game on the last play of regulation.
It was the first SEC game ever to go into overtime. Rallying from a 21-point first half deficit, Georgia won 56-49 in four overtime periods.
On the final play of the first quarter of the game, Baker scored on a 6-yard pass, giving Auburn a 14-7 lead. As Baker reached the back of the end zone and prepared to celebrate, Uga V leaped at the player and strained at his leash. It was reported that the dog’s lunge forced Baker into a defensive dance step that made him appear as if he was trying to avoid an open manhole during a full sprint.
Charles Seiler, Uga’s caretaker, was reported at the time as saying that Uga V was just being playful. His mother, Cecelia Seiler, reportedly suggested that the dog was being protective. She and her husband, Sonny Seiler, have owned and bred the line of UGA mascots since the late 1950s.
That moment during the 1996 Georgia-Auburn game placed Uga V in the national spotlight, and the next year he was later featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated when the magazine proclaimed Uga to be the nation’s best college mascot.
“His incredible reaction in the Auburn game separated him from the other Ugas,” former UGA head football coach Vince Dooley said at the time. “No other dog had ever expressed himself in such a competitive way as he did in a ball game that caught a lot of national attention.”
Between 1999 and 2003, Baker was with the Miami Dolphins, spending equal time on the active and injured reserve rosters and the practice squad. After being cut, he briefly played for the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe then signed with the Canadian Football Leagues’s Toronto Argonauts in 2004. Baker retired from professional football in 2006 to pursue a career in rap music under the name Shake Severs.