The show was just about to start.
After being cut from five NFL teams, including his hometown Philadelphia Eagles, it appeared wide receiver Rasheed Bailey had finally found his professional football home in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
That didn’t mean Bailey, the all-time receiving yardage leader at NCAA Division III program Delaware Valley University, didn’t have his patience tested in Winnipeg, though. The 27-year-old with the nickname ‘Showtime’ was stuck on the Bombers’ practice roster for much of the 2019 season before he got called up to make his first career start in a 35-10 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Banjo Bowl. Bailey had a solid debut, making five catches for 33 yards, but he would have to wait another five weeks before he got to play again.
In Week 18 against the Montreal Alouettes, head coach Mike O’Shea felt like changing things up and he scratched former Dallas Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead and gave Bailey another chance. Bailey ended up making the most of it as he led the team with five receptions for 86 yards in a 35-24 victory. For the rest of the season, including the Grey Cup game, Bailey was a mainstay in the lineup.
Bailey showed flashes in seven games with the Blue and Gold, finishing with 19 receptions for 206 yards. But 2020 was going to be the year it all came together. He was no longer in a position where he had to scratch and claw to make a team. Bailey was expecting to have a full season to prove he can be a game-changing receiver.
But as you already know, that didn’t come to fruition. Just as everything was lining up for Bailey, a global pandemic caused the CFL to axe the 2020 campaign.
“I knew what this year was going to be for me. I was doing everything possible to come back and be everything I wanted to be,” Bailey said in a phone interview from Philadelphia.
“I had it everywhere, I had it in my phone that this would be the year of greater things because I knew in my heart that for the first time in my career, I was coming back to a team that I performed with, won a championship with, and I was going to build off of that. I had my yoga, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, I had everything aligned for this season that was supposed to take place. I was on the phone with the coaches and I was so excited because it just felt like it was my time.”
For a guy who gets paid to catch a football, the one thing Bailey hasn’t been able to catch as a pro is a break.
“You just want to be able to prove yourself and you get so close so many times. You just keep getting up and swinging the bat, swinging the bat, swinging the bat, and one time you swing it and you go all the way around and you fall on your ass,” Bailey said.
“You just got to get back up. It’s always about the next opportunity. I just always try to keep it that way… I think we go through life and we fail at something or we don’t get the result we wanted and we (run). We don’t look at the lesson in it. Every time I’ve been released, every time things just don’t happen how I expected it to happen, I just try to take the lesson in it and I think that’s what keeps me alive. That’s what keeps me motivated.”
Bailey would be the first to admit this time away from the game hasn’t been easy, especially when he’s on the couch on Sundays watching NFL games. But by no means is he moping around feeling sorry for himself. Bailey is still training and believes he’s the strongest he’s ever been. He’s also been using his free time to help others as a motivational speaker. He’s done speeches at his former university, Zoom calls with various schools, and was recently featured in the intro of a song called Pain Guidance by rapper East Coast LA, where Bailey talks about how feeling pain is necessary in order to make your dreams a reality. He isn’t exactly sure where his speaking will take him, but he’s confident he has a bright future in the field.
In watching some of his content on his Instagram and YouTube page, it’s understandable to see why he’d feel that way.
“I want to be able to speak to everybody. I want to speak to a 10-year-old, a 12-year-old or an adult that’s 40 or 50 years old. I’ve been doing those things and (I’ve been) seeing how I have an impact. You’ll get to a point in your life where you feel like ‘Man, I’ve given everything that I have’ but when you really look deep down inside, you still got a little more left to give,” said Bailey.
“I always want to give that type of hope, that type of spirit and voice that no matter what you’re going through in your life, there’s something inside of you that makes you special… Me personally, I feel like we all need that spark just to unlock something we haven’t tapped into yet. I feel like I want to be that person to help unlock that in people.”
This week, it briefly crossed Bailey’s mind that there might not be a 2021 CFL season either. It’s not something Bailey is dwelling on, as he’s using his energy to better himself and be prepared for the next time he steps on the gridiron — whenever that may be. Bailey does envision a season happening, but even if he’s wrong, he thinks he’ll be all right. He practises what he preaches.
“The future is so bright for Rasheed Bailey. It’s not that I’m tooting my own horn, but I know there’s something great on the way or in my future. Whether it’s in speaking, whether it’s still playing football, whatever the case may be, I don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s going to be something.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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