Workout warrior: Spartans RB Edwin Baker

Edwin Baker's nickname, "Rock," spawned under rather unflattering circumstances.

Baker, the All-Big Ten running back from Michigan State, can thank his dad, Edwin, for the handle.

"I was little and playing around one day," Baker said. "I fell off the porch, hit the back of my head and got right back up and kept playing. My dad said, 'That boy's head is hard as a rock.'"

Baker has worked tirelessly to ensure the nickname applies to the rest of his body.

The junior already is one of Michigan State's top performers in the weight room. He recently increased his squat total to 610 pounds, up from 545 last year. Baker bench-presses 395 pounds.

Timed at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash and boasting a 38-inch vertical leap, Baker has complemented his natural athleticism with improved strength.

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio and Spartans head football strength coach Ken Mannie both liken Baker's weight room performance to that of former All-American running back Javon Ringer.

"Rock is highly self-motivated with a great motor," Mannie said. "He is extremely competitive, and does not allow himself to have a bad day."

Baker first began lifting in eighth grade. As a smaller player -- he's listed at 5-foot-9 -- he knew he had to get stronger for high school ball. He couldn't get by on speed alone.

Baker and his teammates at Oak Park (Mich.) High School had unlimited access to the school's weight room, and Baker took advantage.

"I had more energy throughout the day, knowing I was being healthy," he said. "I was getting the results, knowing I was getting stronger. ... I have to have a strength advantage to compensate for my height."

Ringer faced the same challenge at Michigan State. Despite standing just 5-9, Ringer led the nation in both carries (390) and touchdowns (22) in 2008, becoming a true featured back after sharing the load with Jehuu Caulcrick earlier in his career.

Baker made the biggest weight-room jump after his freshman year at Michigan State. He got off to a slow start in 2009, and though he finished with 427 rush yards on 85 carries, he knew he had to raise the bar -- literally and figuratively.

"After the season, I said I want to push myself to the limit," Baker said. "I'm going to challenge my body, challenge my mind to work hard and do things I haven't done my whole life."

Baker emerged as Michigan State's top back in 2010, rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns and averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He became just the sixth Spartans sophomore to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season.

"He's very intense," Dantonio said. "He's got a very good mind-set in terms of how he prepares for everything, not just in the weight room. He has a certain amount of maturity and it shows. He's a worker."

Baker has set definitive on-field goals for himself this fall, but he doesn't get wrapped up in his lifting totals ("I couldn't even tell you my numbers," he said).

He does take pride in the fact his longtime nickname doesn't simply apply from the neck up.

"Most definitely," Baker said, "my body is a rock."