Bailey determined to play SEC football

"I would say I am a team leader, team player. I am fundamentally sound. I like to run block. I perform well under pressure," Bailey said.

Darone Bailey anticipated he was going to play football for home-state Mississippi State until his high school grades forced him to attend Coachoma Community College in Clarksdale, Miss.

Now he's determined to take advantage of a second chance to play Southeastern Conference football after recently giving his verbal commitment to Kentucky. He plans to graduate from Coachoma in December and enroll at UK?for the second semester so he can go through spring practice and still have two years of eligibility left.

"I just try to take it one day at a time," said Bailey. "It's rough growing up in the (Mississippi River) delta. There's not much to look forward to. You work hard to get out of here. In high school, I did not make my ACT score and my classroom grades were borderline. Going to junior college gave me a second chance to focus on my grades, and I've done that.

"I want to make the most of this chance. I know what I want to do. People do not understand what goes on down here. You have to sit a goal at a young age and that's more responsibility than you should have at a young age. It takes a toll on you. But I want to be a good kid and positive role model."

The 6-6, 320-pound Bailey says his family and high school offensive line coach helped him through his adjustment period after his grades prevented him from signing a Division I?scholarship.

"I started becoming a top prospect my 11th grade year when he my line coach put my name out there," Bailey said. "He really got me focused.

"Actually, junior college turned out to be a good thing for me. I wasn't planning to go to junior college, but it made me crack down on the books and it gave me a second chance. I really think junior college is not a bad thing to do, but of course if you have the grades you would go another route. But I am going to Kentucky and things are going to work out."

Bailey did not have any other Division I scholarship offers other than Kentucky, but Mississippi State, Mississippi, Southern Mississippi, Auburn, Tennessee and Oklahoma State were all showing interest.

Bailey, who is projected to play guard, says he was "really impressed" with UK's facilities, campus and coaches.

"I liked it all," Bailey, who gave his verbal commitment on his 19th birthday, said.

He says offensive line coach Mike Summers emphasized that with the linemen UK?would be losing to graduation, he would have a chance to compete for a starting spot in 2012.

"A chance to play is what I was looking for. Kentucky is a perfect fit for me," Bailey said.

He says he never seriously considered Kentucky when he was in high school because he was sure he was going to Mississippi State. However, when UK got in touch with him in March and Mississippi State did not pick up its recruiting effort, he took more interest in the Wildcats. He already knew defensive line coach David Turner, who came to UK?last year from Mississippi State, and talked to him during his visit to Kentucky.

"I just made one visit and that was it," Bailey said. "Getting there for the second semester will give me a head start on others since I should be practicing in the spring.

"I think Kentucky is an up and coming program. I?think the program has made a complete turnaround. I think the big names in the SEC will be in trouble in the next few years with what Kentucky will do."

Bailey said he "always loved football" but he was a basketball player until junior high when he got injured.

"I was too big to play peewee football, so I just played basketball and baseball," he said. "Basketball runs in my family on my dad's side. I have a little sister playing now. She is 12 years old and she is already 6-0 tall. I am really trying to get her into some camps now because she's really good."

Bailey hopes he becomes a really good fit for UK's offensive line, too.

"I would say I am a team leader, team player. I am fundamentally sound. I like to run block. I perform well under pressure," Bailey said. "I am very, very determined. I know I need to get stronger, improve more in my pass technique. Keeping my feet driving is the main thing I have to do better before I get to Kentucky because when I?get there I want to be fully ready to go to take advantage of this opportunity."


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