Sam Baker

Sam Baker, a three-time All-American tackle at USC and a current starting left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, talks to Costa Mesa High football players on Wednesday. (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot / June 15, 2011)

COSTA MESA — Oscar Reyes found the perfect Father's Day gift for his older brother and it did not cost him a cent. He is certain Ray, who is serving in the Navy, will find a lot of value in the item.

Reyes can thank Costa Mesa High football coach Wally Grant for being able to take care of his brother this Sunday.

Grant brought in one of his former players he coached nine years ago as an assistant at Tustin High. That player is now in the NFL and protecting one of the game's young star quarterbacks.

Sam Baker of the Atlanta Falcons met with Reyes and his Costa Mesa teammates. For Reyes, the meet-and-greet with the offensive left tackle was the first time he saw an NFL player in person.

"It feels really good and it inspires me," Reyes said of the chance to interact with Baker and get his autograph.

Reyes waited in line for Baker's autograph. The sophomore's smile grew the closer he got to the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Baker.

The souvenir was not for Reyes, but for his 21-year-old brother, who has been a fan of the Falcons since he was a kid.

Reyes, an offensive lineman, said his brother had no idea he was going to meet Baker while at school. Ray is in for a surprise on Sunday.

"I plan on giving him this autograph on Father's Day," Reyes said before Grant yelled, "I don't want to see any of this stuff on EBay."

This probably will not be the first time Grant will have to remind his players about selling autographs.

Grant plans to introduce the Mustangs to other players he coached during his 11 years at Tustin that went on to success in college and in the NFL. Their stories on how they reached the next levels can only motivate Costa Mesa.

It has only been a couple of weeks since Grant took over at Costa Mesa as the interim coach, but he has high expectations in store for the program. He plans to be the coach at his alma mater for as long as the school wants him.

He expects the program to return to the days of 1993, when the Mustangs competed for CIF Southern Section and league titles. He was a part of then-coach Myron Miller's staff that led Costa Mesa to its only section final appearance in the program's history.

As for why Costa Mesa has not reached another section title game, Grant said he did not know.

"I can't speak for a program that I wasn't involved in," said Grant, the defensive coordinator last year under Jeremy Osso, who was fired after Costa Mesa failed to reach the playoffs for the second time in his five years in charge. "I know what I think is successful. You got to have a weight room and the kids have to be actively involved in that weight room. We have to have an off-season program and the kids have to be actively involved in the plyometrics, the agilities, the speed running, [all] that has to be going year round. Once that's established, everything else kind of falls into place.

"I wouldn't be in coaching if I didn't think that we could be competitive year in and year out. Competitive some years, meaning that we make it to the playoffs. Competitive other years, means that we have a chance to win the CIF championship."

As one of his former players, Baker vouched for Grant, who helped him get to USC, where Baker was a three-time All-American.

Sure, Baker has free time with the NFL lockout, but before he enters his fourth NFL season, he took time out of his schedule to talk with Grant's players.

They asked Baker an array of questions, from what his 40-yard dash time is, to the difference between the NFL and college football, to what his first NFL game was like, to which defensive player in the NFL talks the most trash. Baker answered each question honestly, drawing laughter at times.

"He talks a lot [crap]," Baker said when asked if he has played against Terrell Suggs, a linebacker with the Baltimore Ravens.

As for what Baker said Suggs called him, let's just say Baker did not have a comeback.

Baker just did his best to keep Suggs off his quarterback, Matt Ryan, last year in a game between the Falcons and Ravens. The Falcons went on to win, 26-21, after Ryan threw a 33-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left.

Reyes now has the autograph of one of the linemen giving Ryan enough time to complete the pass. Soon, the autograph will be his brother's to have.