Baptie is catching on to football

Former Falkirk legend Crawford Baptie and son Neil
Former Falkirk legend Crawford Baptie and son Neil

He honed his skills at Brockville where his dad plied his trade, now Neil Baptie is proving to be another sporting star in the making.

And the catching practise he earned behind the goals at Brockville has come in handy for the 21-year-old son of Falkirk legend Crawford.

Neil, a former ball-boy of the football club while his dad was general manager, played for East Kilbride Pirates on Sunday and scored in a comprehensive 56-0 victory over Gateshead.

The football this Baptie is playing though, isn’t the same as what brother Jack plays for Larkhall Juniors, and different from what dad carved out a successful career in with Stenhousemuir, Falkirk and Hamilton.

East Kilbride Pirates are an American football team, and this season Neil’s the quarter-back - utilising the famous combative style beknown to a Baptie.

“I suppose you could say I started practising when I caught the ball at Brockville,” he told Heraldsport. “Obviously the whole family went down to watch my dad play a lot, and then I became involved as a ball-boy.

“My dad was my idol - it was quite something at school to say my dad was a professional footballer - but my competitive football games stopped when I left school after playing for my school team.”

Unlike younger brother Jack, who is sampling the Junior game like dad did with Bailleston, Neil turned his attention to gridiron.

And it brought a surprise - as well as being a football afficionado and driving force on the field, Crawford Baptie knew a fair bit about American football too - and was one of the Pirates’ diehard fans last year.

“I think he was at all of our games last season,” Neil said. “He is really supportive.

“When I told him I was getting into it we spoke about it - just like we do about football, and it turned out my dad knew quite a lot about the game and had been interested in it during the 1980s.

“My only experience up until then had been through the John Madden computer games but once I started I really enjoyed it.

“Obviously it is a bit unusual in Scotland, and my dad was a bit surprised at my interest but he’s been coming along to watch a lot and I think he enjoys it too.”

The Pirates are one of very few American Football teams in Scotland - and Britain - and attract players from all over Scotland and the north of England.

“We have people travelling up from Workington in Cumbria, just to play with the Pirates.

“They’re my local team but when I hear that sort of dedication, it makes me feel like I’m part of a special club. I’ve never regretted taking the chance doing something a bit different, and this year I’m quarter-back so really looking forward to it.”

Neil scored a touchdown on his debut at the position - the the lynch-pin in the team, leading the offensive line and calling the team’s instructions.

With a typical Baptie driving run, Neil drove through Gateshead’s defence over four yards to score against the Pirates’ main conference rivals.

The game also involves a lot of strong running and physical contact - so the all-action genes have not gone to waste as Neil straps on the padding.

He’s had practise catching under pressure at big sporting occasions and it’s not the first time a Baptie has thrown himself into tackles - a bit like the good old days of Brockville.