Family comes first for Bailey

He’s having his best season as a professional, but away from football, it’s been an extremely challenging year for Rasheed Bailey.

The Blue Bombers wide receiver caught his first career CFL touchdown on Aug. 13 in a home game against the Toronto Argos. On the same night, his 11-year-old cousin, Symphony, was back in Philadelphia fighting to stay alive. It was caused by an allergic reaction to Chinese food cooked in peanut oil, and a few days later, Symphony was taken off life support. While this was going on, Bailey’s mom Tamika was battling COVID-19.

With the Bombers having a bye last week, there was finally a window of opportunity for Bailey to return home. He did just that, the 28-year-old hopped on a plane and flew to Philadelphia to surprise his mother. He documented the whole trip and recently posted the first of the three-part video on Youtube and Instagram.

“With the stuff that happened with my mom, my family, and everything that happened with me, it just felt so good to go home and see my loved ones, my family, my grandma, and grieve with them,” Bailey said after Wednesday’s closed practice at IG Field.

“I can’t wait for you guys to see what’s coming up next because hopefully it can touch somebody and inspire somebody to never give up and always keep going.”

To Bailey’s credit, he hasn’t let this challenging period of his personal life slow him down on the gridiron. He’s second on the team in catches (43) and touchdown receptions (five), and third in receiving yards (515). It’s been a roller-coaster ride for Bailey before this point, as he was cut by five NFL teams, including his hometown Philadelphia Eagles, and spent most of 2019 on the practice roster for the Bombers. This is the first full season of action for Bailey since his days at Div. III Delaware Valley University.

“A lot of people see what’s happening now, see me doing well on the field and seeing the results, but for me, it takes so much to get here. It took so much to get here. When you’re in this position, it’s going to take a lot,” said Bailey.

“So for me, I’m just extremely grateful that I’m coming out of some of the stuff that I was going through, my family was going through, and even as a team that we were going through. To see it all come together… it’s special.”

But it’s not just the numbers, as the eye test clearly shows Bailey is much more comfortable playing the Canadian game in 2021. His ability to make contested catches is obvious, but he also does his part in the run game by making key blocks and can even carry the ball as he has seven rushes for 58 yards this season. He’s come a long way from where he was when the Bombers first saw him at a free-agent camp in Florida back in the spring of 2019.

“I want to keep proving that I can be one of the best dudes in this league and I can do some things but it takes work. It takes showing up at 6:30 in the morning and 7:30 in the morning to work with Al (Couture, the team’s head athletic therapist). It takes that much work in order to be sitting in this position,” said Bailey.

“Like a lot of people will see the results of what’s going on and how I got here, but it took everything. It took seven years, it took seven years to be in this position. I don’t take a day for granted. Every single day for me is, I just love being here. Like football is not just football to me. It’s a way of life.”

Bailey’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by his offensive co-ordinator, Buck Pierce.

“Credit to Rasheed… he’s improved dramatically. He’s always had the physical tools to do it, with his size, his stature, his build and his intensity… it’s infectious and he’s a pleasure to have around,” Pierce said.

“He’s a guy that’s willing to do multiple things, whether that’s get into the box and block, whether that’s to run control routes, or run the ball. His growth has been great. For him, it has really been a process, over the years, learning the game and learning how to play football at the professional level. I think we’ve all seen that over the course of this season. We’ve seen his improvement, how he understands how he has to prepare, and he has reaped the benefits of those.”

All that Bailey needed was to find a football home away from home, and he finally has that now in Winnipeg.

“I can honestly say coming to work doesn’t feel like work. I’m surrounded by, I wouldn’t even say friends, I’m surrounded by my brothers,” said Bailey.

“For me, I would do anything for the boys out there. It shows. We’re just a family. This is what we do. We play for each other… It’s amazing just to be a part of this. It’s not work. This is something different. This is something else. It’s just special.”

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

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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