Hilliard’s Bailey bouncing back, eyes NFL Draft

NFL Draft

Purdue linebacker Markus Bailey does the bench press at the NFL football scouting combine Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AJ Mast/AP Images for NFL)

HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) — Football can cause pain, physical and emotional, to the players brave enough to take the field.

Markus Bailey knows that better than most players.

And he’s hoping to hear his name called at some point Saturday during the final rounds of the NFL Draft.

It’s a comeback story worth saluting. Maybe twice.

Bailey, a star at Hilliard Davidson in high school, was set to get early playing time at Purdue in 2015.

On a routine play in a game against Virginia Tech, Bailey injured his left knee. He later learned he had torn the ACL in the knee, and that was not all.

Doctors told Bailey his knee had a smaller than usual ACL, meaning it’s more apt to injury. They guessed Bailey’s right knee could be subject to the same problem.

After months of rehab, Bailey returned to the lineup for good. He started 40 straight games for Purdue and became a candidate for all-Big Ten honors in his junior year.

Against Ohio State, Bailey turned in a monster game of 15 tackles and an interception return for a touchdown in the Boilermakers’ upset of OSU. Bailey was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

But two games into his senior season, the right knee finally gave in during a practice.

Bailey lost his entire senior season after having surgery Oct. 1.

“It’s mentally straining physically straining, the surgery and the rehab, just dealing with the doubt and uncertainty that you’ll be able to come back the same.” Bailey said. “You just have to be able to get up and work every day and have that bigger picture in your mind.”

Two surgically-repaired knees does not sound attractive to NFL general managers and scouts. Bailey knows this. He says several teams have already told him they will not take him in the Draft due to injury concerns. But enough teams sound interested enough to give Bailey hope he’ll finally get his chance at the next level, with two healthy knees.

“It’s kind of frustrating getting labeled as injury-prone because I had an injury last season before I was drafted… even though I played 40 game straight didn’t miss a practice or none of that.” Bailey said.  “I get it, but it’s good that I’ve got those out of the way in college and I feel like I have two good ACL’s going to the NFL now.”

Bailey has been preparing for the Draft at a training facility in the Phoenix area, and that’s where he’ll be this weekend for the draft. He says his mom and brother will be with him, but nobody else. The celebrations for his comeback will have to wait… for now.

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