When Justin Baynes was 10 years old, he said he sold water bottles in front of the Laurel Wal-Mart. With his mom's help, he bought a 12-pack for a few dollars and then re-sold them individually for $1 each.
“I've always had a knack for money,” Baynes said.
Now, Baynes is trying to sell himself.
A senior running back at Riverdale Baptist School, Baynes has received interest from Amherst, Bucknell, Chicago, Cincinnati, Clemson, Delaware Valley, Elon, Hobart, Indiana, Jacksonville, Juanita, Kent State, Lafayette, Lehigh, Marist, Monmouth, New Hampshire, Penn State, Pennsylvania, Princeton, Rhode Island, Richmond, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Shenandoah, Shepherd, Stony Brook, Temple, Towson, Trine and Villanova.
Yet he has yet to receive a college scholarship offer, something he hopes to use to pursue a degree in business.
“Lately, I've been receiving emails from a lot of schools, but nothing that's really turned my head or saying anything about money,” Baynes said. “So, just trying to go out there every Friday and earn a scholarship.
“I think about that every second of every day, that other people are out there getting my scholarship, that I need to grind harder to get a scholarship.”
Riverdale Baptist coach Bob Shields even has his sales pitch down for college coaches.
“The first thing I'd do, I'd tell them I don't lie about what my players are able to do or what I think their ceiling is,” Shields said. “And then, I just go on and describe who he is and what he's done since he's been with us.
“I would just say he's a high-character young man. He's a young man mature in his work ethic. He's a young man that wants to be great. He just doesn't want to stop at being good. He wants to be great, and I would, if I was in position, I would give one of my valuable slots to take a young man like Justin Baynes.”
Entering high school, Baynes was accepted to DeMatha and St. John's College High, but when they didn't offer financial aid, he went to St. Vincent Pallotti.
Baynes said Pallotti wasn't for him, and he transferred to Laurel, where he quickly learned the fit was no better.
Transferring a second time wasn't easy, and Baynes said he was prepared to attend “anywhere that was going to let me in.”
“At that time, nobody wanted me,” Baynes said. “I felt as though, that gave me more ambition. I already knew Laurel wasn't a great school for football. I just wanted to get back into a private school that was going to give me a chance to get to college. And Bob called me one day, because he remembered me from when I was in middle school and said he wanted me to come out there. I was like, 'I don't know if I can get the money.' He said, 'Anything you need, I've got you.' He's been a great role model since.”
Baynes' first year at Riverdale went well, and he earned All-Gazette honorable mention. But he still wasn't progressing toward that coveted scholarship.
“Before the end of my junior year, no college coaches were really after me,” Baynes said. “That just gave me the ambition to, once again, grind harder. Because I knew my mom would never be able to afford to send me to college, so I had to get there my own way.”
This season, Baynes is averaging 152 yards per game and has helped his team to a 5-0 record. He's successfully navigated himself from Pallotti to Laurel to Riverdale Baptist and has put himself in prime position to receive a scholarship offer. There's one major step remaining.
“I hope you see me sometime at the next level,” Baynes said.