Brandon Bailey Ends One Career as Another is Set to Begin
Dec. 4, 2005
By Todd Merriett, Bucknell Athletic Communications
After making a smattering of appearances there during his junior year, senior Brandon Bailey frequented Bucknell's Career Development Center on a daily basis in early September to help him prepare for his future. Unlike the starting defensive ends for national powers like USC or Texas, who will be interviewed by National Football League executives in March at the annual meat market known as the NFL Combine, Bailey is putting just as much effort into searching for a job as he is into football and academics this fall.
A management major with a nearly 3.0 grade-point average, Bailey spent his final summer of college interning at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The two days before the final football game of his career, he plans to be interviewing with a financial firm. He will not make millions of dollars continuing to play a game, but he should become wealthy as he puts his Bucknell education to work in the financial world.
Even though Bailey, who has started seven games at defensive end opposite All-American Sean Conover, has concentrated on landing a job this fall, football has not taken a backseat. In just his eighth year playing organized football, Bailey has had a breakthrough campaign in 2005 with career highs in tackles (38) and tackles for loss (10).
Listed behind classmates Conover and Andrew Decker on the opening-day depth chart, the hulking Bailey took advantage of a thumb injury to Decker to step into the starting lineup for the first time in his career during the season's third game against Cornell. The Newark, Del., native made an immediate impression with a career-high five tackles and one sack while playing against one of the toughest offensive linemen in all of college football, All-American Kevin Boothe of the Big Red.
"Sean (Conover) and I switched sides in the week leading up to the Cornell game so he could face Boothe," recalls Bailey, who leads the team with four sacks this year. "Then, in the game, Boothe was on my side. I feel like if I can compete against him, I can handle anybody."
Facing Boothe has not been Bailey's only challenge this year as the Bison have struggled to a 1-9 mark heading into their final contest against Holy Cross. It is just the second losing season in the last 11 years for the tradition-rich Bucknell football program.
"I have felt both anger and frustration this year," explains Bailey, who at 6-4, is one of the tallest Bison. "I don't think there is a dominant team in the Patriot League this year and Lafayette, Fordham and Colgate were all winnable games that we just couldn't pull out. I was hoping to play football in December, but unfortunately that didn't happen."
While this has been Bailey's breakthrough season, his breakout game came last year against Georgetown. Playing on a dreary Saturday afternoon at muddy Harbin Field, Bailey recorded a career-high three sacks to help propel the Bison to a 35-19 victory. Much like this year, his efforts were overshadowed by classmate Dante Ross's two kickoff returns for touchdowns. Ross has captured many headlines this year as well by changing from a lock-down cornerback, to a formidable quarterback.
Bailey, along with numerous other defensive players, has joined Ross in making the move from defense to offense. He even caught his first pass since high school when he lined up at the tight end position and snatched a five-yard first-down pass from Daniel Zvara on a fake field goal.
"The coaches were actually thinking of playing me at tight end this year, but then Decker got hurt and I was playing defensive end full time," explains Bailey, who was a receiver in high school in addition to his defensive responsibilities. "I remember I made a 40-yard catch against Sussex (High School) that was probably the biggest highlight of my career."
While he played offense, defense and special teams during his high school days, the sport was still new to Bailey, who decided to try out for the Glasgow High School football team as a freshman at the advanced age of 14. Growing up in Philadelphia, Bailey did not play organized football. He moved to Delaware with his mother, Michelle, at the age of 13.
"When I was younger my dad always asked me if I wanted to play sports, but I chose not to," remembers Bailey. "All my friends were playing football my freshman year and I decided to play. It was tough at first because I was uncoordinated, but I got better. If I could go back in time, starting to play earlier is something I would change."
In addition to football, Bailey excelled in basketball, earning two all-conference citations, and was a member of the track and field team for one season, during which he was predominantly a shot putter, but also competed in the 400-meter run.
"I remember running the 400 one time and came around the last turn in first place, but all of a sudden the lactic acid built up and I felt like my body went into shock," recalls Bailey, who finished fourth in the race.
The athletic ability that allowed Bailey to be a three-sport star in high school attracted the Bucknell coaching staff to him. Dave Kotulski, who would later serve as the acting head coach during Bailey's rookie campaign, and is currently the defensive coordinator at Holy Cross, headed the recruiting of the three-time academic all-state selection.
"I was just 6-2, 215 pounds when I first arrived at Bucknell," says Bailey, who has put on more than 50 pounds in his four years. "I thought I was a big guy and the coaches were telling me I could eventually be more than 250 pounds. I didn't think so, but coaches tend to see what you don't see in yourself. They make you do what you don't think you can do, and when I first came here and saw the guys lifting in the weight room, I was both motivated and impressed."
Football was not the only thing that drew Bailey to Central Pennsylvania. Despite receiving a scholarship offer from Towson, which promised him five years in the Tiger program, Bailey chose Bucknell due to the academics.
"I had never really heard of Bucknell until my junior year of high school," recalls Bailey, who followed in the footsteps of Delaware natives J.C. Morgan, Virgil Rush and Kevin Ransome, who all wore Orange and Blue in recent years. "When I came for a visit I really liked the campus, the coaching staff and the way the program was run. I also liked the tradition that featured seven straight winning seasons. I wanted to go to college to get a good education, and play football too, and Bucknell provided me with the best of both worlds.
"Since arriving at Bucknell, I have found out the education is second-to-none. I think it is close to Ivy League in terms of the quality of education you receive. Professors show a genuine interest and really care about the students, and that is what makes Bucknell Bucknell."
Though it seems like he just arrived in quaint Lewisburg, Bailey, who will be playing his 40th career game in the season finale against Holy Cross, is continuing to prepare for life without football.
"I am going to miss everybody because I am used to being around the guys all the time," says Bailey. "I spend most of my day in the locker room or in the coaches' offices watching tape. It is a little scary that later this week I will be an alumnus."
Even though his schedule will soon be void of football for the first time since he was 13, Bailey is looking forward to securing a coveted job shortly.
"Hopefully I get a nice phone call after Thanksgiving Dinner offering me a job," smiles Bailey, hoping those trips to the Career Development Center pay off as much as his visits to the weight room.