Bombers’ receiver Bailey always trying to inspire somebody, on and off the field

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You won’t find many more passionate football players than Rasheed Bailey.

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A fierce competitor on the field, a receiver who is willing to go to the dirty areas to get the job done, Bailey is also a motivational speaker who has made it his goal in life to try to inspire others.

The 28-year-old from Philadelphia has emerged as a key player with the first-place Winnipeg Blue Bombers this year, establishing a strong chemistry with quarterback Zach Collaros, and his versatility has proven to be a big part of the team’s success.

But what makes Bailey tick is his burning fire for the game of football, for life, for family, for teammates and for humanity in general.

“It’s not about me,” Bailey said Wednesday after the Bombers held a closed practice at IG Field. “That’s the reason why I am the way I am. I don’t make it about myself. I make it about other people. I’m all about inspiring somebody. If that’s gonna elevate my game, I’m gonna be that way all the time.”

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Bailey has made a bundle of clutch catches in recent weeks, on second downs, and in the end zone. He’s also been successful in the running game, churning his legs and lowering his shoulder to pick up first downs.

For the season, he has 43 catches for 515 yards and five touchdowns. He has also rushed seven times for 58 yards.

Having been cut by seven pro teams before landing in Winnipeg, he’s grateful to be with the Bombers, who lead the CFL with a 10-1 record.

It has helped him keep his mind off the situation back home in Philly. In August, his young cousin, Symphony, died after having an allergic reaction. At the same time his mother, Tamika, was battling COVID-19.

As much as the Bombers needed him, he needed the Bombers and the football family he has established north of the border.

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

“The environment that coach (Mike) O’Shea has created for all of us and what we already bring to the table, it’s just super special to see. 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.”

During the recent bye week, we got to see another side of Bailey.

He went home to Philadelphia and surprised his mother, who is now fully recovered, posting the special reunion on social media in a video produced by a friend that is available on YouTube.

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You can see and hear the love he has for Tamika and for his home city and his family.

“It just felt so good just to go home, to see my loved ones, to grieve with them, to see my grandma,” Bailey said.

“I’m just extremely grateful that I’m coming out of some of the stuff I was going through and my family was going through, and even as a team, to see it all come together and just walking into it, it’s special.

“I’m excited to just keep sharing my motivation and keep sharing my love.”

Back in Winnipeg now, Bailey and the Bombers are focusing in on the final three games of the regular season, starting Saturday night against the Montreal Alouettes at IG Field.

The onus is on them to keep getting better, or at least maintain their current level of excellence, despite the fact that they don’t need to win another game in order to host the West Final.

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“Right before we came here, coach Buck (Pierce) said ‘We expect more out of you guys, we want more,’” Bailey said. “And I work like that, I train like that, I prepare my mind like that.”

Pierce has seen Bailey’s growth first hand. Bailey arrived in Winnipeg after attending a free-agent camp in Florida in April of 2019 and he had to battle for months just to get a chance to play, midway through that season.

Once he got in the line-up, he didn’t want to lose his spot and he has continually improved since then, to the point that he is now a go-to receiver.

“Credit to Rasheed,” Pierce said. “His work ethic in the off-season and during the off-season … 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.

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“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.”

Bailey said it’s all about the people around him bringing out the best in him — people like O’Shea, Pierce, Collaros and receivers coach Kevin Burgoin.

He appreciated having been given the opportunity to play, to learn on the job, something he never got in six stops on NFL practice rosters.

“It took seven years to be in this position,” Bailey said. “I don’t take a day for granted. Every single day, for me, I just love being here.

“Football is not just football for me, it’s a way of life.”

Twyman@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/Ted_Wyman

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