Mercer Island senior Owen Baebler grew up playing quarterback, and when he joined the varsity team in his sophomore year, he expected to be under center for the Islanders. His coaches had another position in mind.
“Sophomore year rolls around and the coaches say, ‘I want to see you on linebacker in varsity,’” Baebler said. “So it kind of came to me. I’m kind of naturally better at linebacker. Ever since I started focusing on the position, it’s been really fun and I’ve enjoyed it a lot.’
Baebler, who plays middle linebacker and tight end for the Islanders, said he has to be the quarterback of the defense, making sure his teammates all know what they’re doing, reading offenses and checking out of defensive formations.
The 6-foot 220-pound linebacker said he models his game after Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. Baebler said Wagner is an undersized linebacker like himself, who works hard every play and uses his speed to make plays.
“As a linebacker, especially in (linebacker coach Don Papasedero’s) defense, you have to be physical, have almost perfect technique and play sideline-to-sideline,” Baebler said. “You can’t take a play off and let yourself get blocked. You have to be the guy who makes every play, or else you’re not going to be on the field.”
Baebler said his biggest strength on the gridiron is his football knowledge. He said he spends a lot of time in the film room dissecting tape. Defensive coordinator Gary Shavey said Baebler goes above and beyond when it comes to his preparation.
“I remember one time in our season last year, he drew up every offensive play of the team we were playing,” Shavey said. “I told him, ‘we don’t need to memorize every play they’re going to run, but it’s good that you know what’s going on.’”
Shavey said Baebler is an anchor for the team, always playing hard and bringing a high level of intensity while still having fun.
“He likes to make sure that guys are doing well,” Shavey said. “He makes sure that, if mistakes are made, we can recover on the next play. That’s really helpful for the whole team.”
Along with being a standout on both sides of the ball for the Islanders, Baebler has also been on the Mercer Island wrestling team since his sophomore year. He said wrestling has made him a better overall football player.
“I think wrestling really helps me with my balance and my toughness,” Baebler said. “It helps my hands be quick, which helps with blocks, securing tackles and stuff like that.”
As a senior, Baebler said every time he steps onto the field for the Islanders he thinks about it being his last year with the team, but he said that won’t change how he plays.
“I’m not thinking, ‘This is my last season, I have to make a splash or anything,’” Baebler said. “I’m just thinking about doing my job, making plays and playing football the way I always have, and when it comes to an end, it comes to an end.”
The Reporter asked Baebler a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life:
What kind of music are you listening to?
It kind of depends on how I’m feeling. I like a lot of the modern rap, Travis Scott is definitely one of my favorite rappers. I listen to a lot of my dad’s music, which is kind of ‘80s-’90s, so I kind of enjoy all kinds.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
My dad told me, whenever I’m on the field, I better be giving it everything that I have, because you never know when somebody’s going to be passing you up. Whether that’s somebody on your own team to take your spot, or another team to take your spot at the next level or maybe get an award over you. Every play, I go out and give it my maximum effort.
What is your dream vacation?
Disneyland is always fun. I’ve been a couple of times, and every time I go, it feels like the best thing ever.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
A pet peeve of mine would be people saying, “I could care less.” The correct saying would be, “I couldn’t care less.” People saying, “They could care less,” means they’re actually interested.