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Man of steel

Bailey conquers odds to become Georgia football star

Posted: Wednesday August 9, 2006 12:45PM; Updated: Saturday August 12, 2006 12:25AM
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Allen Bailey lives on Sapelo Island but commutes 45 minutes via a 30-minute ferry and car to attend school each day.
Allen Bailey lives on Sapelo Island but commutes 45 minutes via a 30-minute ferry and car to attend school each day.
Photo courtesy of Brenda Robinson

The legend of highly recruited linebacker Allen Bailey grows every day at McIntosh County Academy, a Class 2A high school in Darien, Ga.

The 6-foot-4, 255-pound senior lives in the tiny village of Hog Hammock on Sapelo Island, which has a population of approximately 100, half of whom are Bailey's relatives.

The island was inhabited by African slaves in the 1500s, and many of the residents living there today are direct descendants. At one time the island was owned by tobacco king R.J. Reynolds, but the state of Georgia is the main property owner today. Descendants of original residents, however, own property and have the right to sell.

Bailey takes a ferry 30 minutes into town to get to school each day and then spends another 15 minutes in a bus or car. With the last ferry of the day leaving at 5:30 p.m. and Bailey starring on the football and basketball teams, he spends most of his fall and winter living in town with friends and relatives.

"This kid really has had to go out of his way to become a football star," recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "He's probably one of the top 10 linebackers in the country. He's all muscle. The kid looks like he's ready for the pros."

SchoolSports ranks him as the No. 10 player in the 2007 class.

McIntosh County coach Robby Robinson is awed by Bailey's physical strength. Robinson recalled a weightlifting session during Bailey's sophomore year. "It usually takes two hands to lift two 45-pound plates," Robinson said, "but Allen grabbed two in each hand -- with his thumb, middle and index fingers -- and took them from the power cleaning station to the squat station. Nobody would even attempt it.

"He's the most impressive-looking kid I've seen at this age. He is chiseled out of granite. His work habits are just unbelievable. When he hits you, he completely annihilates you. He also plays a little fullback and even caught a few passes [he has a 31-inch vertical]. When he is the lead blocker for our tailback, some of his licks are unbelievable. He just implodes [defenders]."

Bailey knows his physique alone impresses fans and foes alike, because of "the look they give to me when I walk off the bus."

The soft-spoken Bailey, who benches 370 pounds and runs a 4.95 40, said the best thing he does is "hustle. The team feeds off me, and if I do good, the team does good."

The rising senior has narrowed his college choices to Miami, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Bailey carries a 3.4 GPA and will be the first in his family to attend college.

As a junior he led the Buccaneers with 71 solo and 61 assisted tackles. He had 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and five fumble recoveries. He also carried 51 times -- mostly in the red zone -- for 323 yards and four touchdowns.

Starting his 19th season as head coach, Robinson said, "He is the best I've coached. He is head and shoulders above all the others, and I've had two reach the NFL."