When Daylen Baldwin ran out of the tunnel at Michigan stadium for the first time he had to take a moment.
The senior wide receiver, who transferred to Michigan after playing at FCS school Jackson State this past spring, finally felt his long football journey reaching its apex.
“I ran out there, I hit the banner and then I just started looking around like whoa,” Baldwin said. “I felt like this is where I belong. I felt a sense of belonging like I’m exactly where I need to be right now.”
Baldwin began his career at Morgan State in 2017 and then transferred to Jackson State following his sophomore year. After redshirting his first year with the Tigers, Baldwin had a long wait until he could take the field due to the pandemic. The FCS cancelled the fall season, so Baldwin didn’t see game action until this past spring. But when he finally did have the opportunity, he ran with it.
Baldwin exploded for 27 catches, 540 yards and seven touchdowns in the six game spring season — which led the entire Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Michigan native parlayed that success into a chance to play at a Power 5 school. The Wolverines turned out to be the perfect fit.
“The biggest thing was about me developing,” Baldwin said. “I feel like Michigan has everything I need to develop...Even when I came from [Jackson State] I wasn’t a finished product. I knew I still got a lot farther to go. Obviously, I didn’t want to go somewhere and not play but what I would say is it’s a fine line of playing time and getting better ...This is one of the schools where I have an opportunity to play as well as develop and not just sit there and develop and barely see the field.”
It's been a long journey for Baldwin to end up in Ann Arbor. He’s thankful for the opportunity and he’s focused on making the most of his remaining time in college — and one day reaching the NFL. When discussing how he got to this point, Baldwin had a fiery response.
“I think about [my journey] pretty much everyday,” Baldwin said. “Just understanding [that] no matter what, you’ve been through the worst. You’ve had days where you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.
“Now I’m here at a place like Michigan. Now it’s about just keeping with the process. Just staying with it. It’s worked this far, so don’t stop now. Don’t become complacent, don’t get lazy. Keep taking the same steps you were taking when no one knew who you were. Now, you’re at a bigger school, you’re doing better but keep the same things going. That’s what’s going to help me be successful here and at the next level.”
So far at Michigan Baldwin has just one catch to his name, but it was surely an impactful one. Midway through the fourth quarter of the Wolverines week one blowout win against Western Michigan, Baldwin sprinted deep down the left sideline. Freshman phenom JJ McCarthy then uncorked a ball down the field that found its way to Baldwin who caught it in stride and outran the defender for a 69-yard score.
The play got Michigan fans excited for the future with McCarthy. But it should also get them excited about the present with Baldwin.
Following the injury to top wideout Ronnie Bell, there is a lot of uncertainty in the receiver room at Michigan right now. In Bell’s absence, someone will have to step up. But if anyone can fill that void, it's Baldwin. He doesn’t lack the confidence:
“I can do everything, if you ask me.”