The Philadelphia Story: Aggie Star Bailey Signs with Hometown Eagles
Originally published in the June 25 Bucks County Herald
“I’m not going to lie,” admitted Del Val University star wide receiver Rasheed Bailey. “You do look at the record book and you think ‘I can do these things. I know I can.’
“But I knew, and my coach [Duke Greco] always put it into me, that none of those stats matter if you are losing games,” Bailey continued. “I never would have gotten the recognition that I got if we didn’t win games. We won games, and all other things just happened.”
Where do you start with the “all other things” that Bailey described? How the 6’2”, 205 pounder had a 2014 for the ages- leading all of Division III with 1,707 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns? How he was a First Team Associated Press All-American and the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) Player of the Year?
And it gets crazier…how a kid from Roxborough High had one- ONE!- catch in his entire junior year, and becomes an NFL Draft prospect just five autumns later? And on May 2nd, Bailey signs with not just any NFL team- which would have been an incredible story in its own right- but with his beloved Philadelphia Eagles, who play just 15 miles southeast of Roxborough?
“When I was in high school, I wasn’t highly recruited,” recalled Bailey, who played tight end in Roxborough’s run heavy wing T offense. “I played a lot of defense in high school and I had a couple of people in front of me.
“I worked extremely hard in the offseason to prepare myself for my senior season and my biggest goal was: I wanted to go to college and be one of the first members of my family to go to college,” Bailey continued. “I did it, and I did it at Del Val.”
Bailey generated a fair bit of interest from Division II programs and other MAC schools. But Greco “used to call me, shoot me text messages and show me that he cared,” said Bailey. “I wound up going to Del Val and it turned out to be the best decision of my life.”
It took years for Bailey to become an overnight sensation. “I’d go to class and then go straight down (to the football facility),” Bailey remembers. “I had a mindset where I just wanted to get better all of the time.”
Bailey’s work ethic and passion both grade as NFL caliber. Bailey also benefited from his close connection with two key people in the Del Val football family: Greco and classmate/quarterback Aaron Wilmer, who hailed from the opposite side of Philly and went to George Washington.
“Aaron and I spent a lot of time together,” Bailey emphasized. “There were times during the summer where would throw until the lights went off outside.
“[Coach Greco] and I built a strong relationship,” Bailey continued. “I can call that guy for anything. I am so happy that I made the decision to come to Del Val and he was one of the main reasons why. Through out my four years, he taught me a lot of things. He helped me grow. He helped me to mature and become a man.”
The end result of the work and chemistry produced an Aggie team that started 9-0. Bailey and Wilmer drew the attention of NFL scouts with their aerial show.
Bailey believes that following the right processes resulted in his signing with the Eagles. “I did all of my waiting and played my role as third receiver, then second receiver and then going all the way to number one receiver,” reminded Bailey, who had just 34 catches in his first two Aggie seasons. “It was in due time that happened, and it happened at the best time.”
The NFL “was always a dream for me,” Bailey revealed. “But I prepare like I want to win a championship. I wanted to win.
“Of course every kid wants to go to the NFL but not everybody really wants to put the time in. I never put my focus on the NFL,” Bailey reminded. “I wouldn’t put it on my Twitter, or talk about it with the guys. It was my drive and motivation to win and have a ring on my finger and say I was a champion.”
After the season ended, Bailey’s life became a whirlwind. He auditioned at Villanova’s Pro Day. He worked out for several NFL teams, including the Eagles.
The training and off-season workouts were “an awesome opportunity because I got to train with guys from big schools: Alabama, LSU, Virginia Tech,” Bailey said. “It gave me a lot of confidence and it let me know that I belong here.
“The process was very long, and at the same time I was still trying to get my degree in Marketing. And I did it,” beamed Bailey, who graduated in May.
Bailey wouldn’t be the first Delaware Valley product to come from a tiny school and succeed at wide receiver. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson hailed from Chichester and Widener. He was drafted- all the way in the 15th round however- yet White Shoes made three Pro Bowls.
Bailey was three weeks into Organized Team Activities at the time of this interview in late May. He completed the Eagles’ Rookie Mini-Camp. “We’ve been going at it, getting into the system, learning and just enjoying the experience,” Bailey said. “Being able to put that uniform on is really a blessing every day. I grew up in Philly. I was a Philly fan and an Eagles fan. This is my city, and it’s an awesome feeling to put the jersey on and see the history when you walk through the hallways every single day. That is one of the best feelings ever.”
No disrespect to Montclair State and Albright- games where Bailey set or tied Del Val receptions and yardage marks in 2014- but the NFL starkly contrasts with the MAC.
“It’s very challenging because not only are you learning the offense, but you’re learning the signals from the sidelines,” Bailey pointed out. “It’s about learning the concepts and getting everything down pat.
“Of course it is challenging. Of course it’s fast. It’s the NFL. Of course, everybody is good. Those are the things that you are dealing with. But the one thing that you have to have being at this level is confidence and knowing your responsibility and just doing your job,” Bailey continued. “That is what is being preached around this facility. Those are the things- and holding guys accountable and getting to the ultimate goal.
“Its tough, and you have your moments where its like ‘Ah man, this is a lot!’” Bailey smiled. “But at the end of the day, these opportunities don’t come too often and when you get them, you have to take full advantage of it. Here with the Philadelphia Eagles, they give you a lot of opportunity to get better and be the best that you can be.”
As a player- and as a person- Bailey’s ceiling seems unlimited. “Going through that whole [draft] process and still staying in school, commuting back and forth, the long rides, and going through the workouts: it was a challenge,” he said, “but it helped me become a better man and it humbled me. I paid the price right now but I’m happy.
“I have my degree. I’m on an NFL football team. And I’m inspiring others and I’m giving other people hope and I am getting so many phone calls and messages talking about how ‘I really appreciate what you are doing’ and ‘You are really showing a lot of people that anything is possible.’ That’s my ultimate goal,” Bailey concluded, “is to give people hope and be that role model for young kids, and even adults.”
Whether he makes a Pro Bowl like White Shoes, or plays in a Super Bowl for the Eagles like undrafted wide receiver Greg Lewis did is almost irrelevant. If Bailey’s dream is to inspire and be that role model, he has already accomplished it.
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