Boone’s Backus ready for ‘opportunity of a lifetime’ at UT

Former Daniel Boone standout Colby Backus has developed into a top-notch recruit at Walters State and will continue his career at Tennessee next season. Photo courtesy of Rob Harvey/Walters State Athletics

By Trey Williams

After failing to land a Division I college baseball offer while at Daniel Boone, it’s safe to say Colby Backus has since carved a niche for himself as a top-notch recruit.

The 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman outfielder’s bat is a big reason why Walters State is ranked No. 1 in the country and he recently committed to continue his career with the top-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

Backus will be leaving one elite program for another thanks to fiery fifth-year coach Tony Vitello reviving UT, which had recorded 12 straight losing seasons in the Southeastern Conference when he was hired. Vitello’s Volunteers won 50 games for the third time in program history last year and advanced to the College World Series for the first time since 2005.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to get to play for that kind of team,” Backus said. “There’s no better opportunity out there. And it’s awesome – I love Coach Vitello’s passion. Sometimes he may take it a little bit too far, but it just shows his love for the game.”

Backus displayed his love for the game while redshirting during his freshman year at Walters State. If he wasn’t in a batting cage or at the field, he could likely be found in a weight room.

“His first fall here he was voted our number 27 hitter – and numbers 26 and 28 are pitchers,” Walters State coach David Shelton said. “It’s been a steady growth as a player since then. He took advantage of a redshirt year and he basically lived in the weight room and lived in the batting cages and really just turned himself into the player that he is today. … This fall he was voted like our No. 3 hitter in the program.”

That number could be even higher now. Backus leads Walters State (23-3, 51-5) with 14 doubles and 75 hits. He is second among Senators in home runs (16) and RBIs (63) and third in batting (.393).

Backus’ maturation, you could say, causes Shelton to marvel.

“You’ll think you’re standing beside Thanos of the Avengers or something,” Shelton said. “I mean he’s between 6-4 and 6-5 and 235, and he looks like an Under Armour model. He looks like he should be playing football down at UT instead of baseball.

“And the thing is, he’s our fastest player. He ran a 6.47 in the 60 in the fall at that size.”

Backus’ brother Chad played football at Science Hill, where he was a second team all-conference defensive lineman as a senior in 2013.

“Definitely whenever I would work out and stuff he pushed me to my limits just because he’s almost fanatical about exercise,” Backus said. “So it kind of helped me discover that wherever I think I can go, I can go a step farther.”
Chad lived in Colorado for a while, but moved to Knoxville last year. Colby expects to see him in the stands at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Tennessee junior relief pitcher Kirby Connell’s older brothers Cody and Kevin attended Daniel Boone. Kirby’s family moved away prior to his high school years. He signed with the Vols out of Blacksburg High School in South Carolina.

“I knew him a little bit when I was younger, but I haven’t talked to him in years,” Backus said. “Hopefully I’ll get up there and kind of have something in common with him. One of my buddies went to his church and we’d go play catch or something, but that was a long time ago.”

Backus committed to Roane State while at Boone. He also had an offer from first-year Milligan University coach Skyler Barnett, who initially began speaking to Backus during his junior season when Barnett was an assistant at Walters State.

“He (Barnett) was the first one to talk to me from here (Walters State) and he was the first one to talk to me when he went to Milligan,” Backus said. “He’s a good guy.”

Walters State wasn’t officially on board until Shelton saw Backus against Elizabethton standout Evan Carter during the first and – thanks to the pandemic – only week of Backus’ senior season in 2020.

“I guess I was fortunate I got to see him that week,” Shelton said. “You could see he had a high ceiling.”

Backus attended Providence Academy through 10th grade.

“It was a hard decision (transferring to Boone), mostly just because I had gone to Providence from kindergarten through tenth grade,” Backus said. “So it was a big change. But once I got to Boone, it was definitely the right decision to make.

“I didn’t know if Providence was going to end up having a baseball team or not just because a bunch of my friends were deciding to quit. So I was like, ‘If they’re not gonna have a baseball team, I’m gonna have to go somewhere.’ But, obviously, they ended up hiring Jeff Reed, who is a phenomenal coach.”

Rob Hoover coached Backus his junior season at Boone.

“I’ve gotten a lot of texts from Coach Hoover and different coaches throughout the year saying like ‘congrats’ and how they’ve been watching me,” Backus said. “It’s been a great feeling kind of looking back through all the years of me playing baseball and almost reminiscing a little bit and seeing where I am from then to now. … I feel like God’s really blessed me over the past year and kind of helped me relax into trusting my hard work.”

Walters State, which was scheduled to begin postseason play on Monday, is favored to advance to the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado.

The Senators made the first of nine trips to the World Series in 1984 when David Crockett alum Tary Scott was the premier slugger. They made the first of eight World Series trips in a 16-year span in 2003 and won a national championship when Science Hill alum Ken Campbell was the head coach in 2006.

So Backus’ current team and future team could compete in their respective World Series this year.

“Yea, that’d be an awesome experience,” Backus said. “I couldn’t think of a better scenario. … I love it here. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything. It kind of helped me find who I am, not only as a baseball player but as a person. I’ve found some lifelong friends.

“(Shelton) has completely changed, like, my baseball career. He came in and he believed in me and it changed my life.”


About Author

Comments are closed.