Many young football players have to reshape their bodies and get stronger in order to achieve their full potential. Amite safety/wide receiver Jordan Baldwin needed a different kind of upgrade.

“I had to and start doing what I needed to do,” Baldwin said. “I guess I always knew I had speed and talent. But I didn’t work at it. I didn’t take it seriously.

“I could have missed out on all this with the team. I started working harder over the last year and it was worth it.”

Baldwin is one of the senior leaders for a defense that will play a key role as Amite (11-2) meets Livonia (13-0) in the Class 3A title game that opens the second day of this weekend’s Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic at noon Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“Jordan has come a long way,” Amite coach Alden Foster said. “We’ve got a lot of guys on our defense who are good. He’s turned into a leader. Just like Brad Porter (defensive lineman) is a guy we can rely on the that front side, Jordan is a guy we trust on the back side of our defense.”

It’s not just lip service when Foster talks about how far the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Baldwin has come.

The last time Amite advanced to the Prep Classic was 2011. Several freshmen were part of the the Warrior squad that finished as the 3A runner-up to St. Charles Catholic but Baldwin wasn’t one of them. He was dismissed from the team earlier in the season by Foster.

“I know now I’m lucky he (Foster) gave me another chance,” Baldwin said. “I had to be more mature and responsible.”

Foster and defensive coordinator Dwayne Davis have seen key changes in Baldwin on the field and off the field. He’s improved his grade point average and now has colleges expressing some interest in him. Baldwin also works a part-time job on weekends and some weekdays.

“Coach Foster is from Amite and he knows most of the kids and their families,” Davis said. “He’s a good judge of kids and can sense things about them. He thought Jordan could really turn his life around and he has.

“Since last year you can see Jordan maturing not just as a player, but as a person. He developed a strong work ethic and has become a leader.”

Baldwin is not the best known player in the Amite secondary.

Junior Joshua Porter has returned two of his six interceptions for touchdowns and has scholarship offers from LSU and Ole Miss. Senior Brandon Burton also has six interceptions.

“He plays that role of the safety very well,” Davis said. “Jordan’s not afraid to hit people and he’s got good ball instincts too.

“I think he’s got five or six interceptions.”

Baldwin said he wants to play college football, but won’t think about that until the season is over. His focus is on Livonia.

“Livonia … they’re big and physical,” Baldwin said. “You can see they have athletes all over the place. They really do look a lot like us.”

When asked what it will take for No. 3 Warriors to beat the top-seeded Wildcats, Baldwin sticks with the basics. No bulletin board material.

“Just playing our game … Warrior football,” Baldwin said.