IN 2004 junior
college recruit Timmy Bailey was weighing scholarship offers from programs such
as Texas A&M and Mississippi State. But the the 6'3", 240-pound
linebacker from Mississippi Delta Community College wound up making an
unexpected detour--to Iraq.
When he was 17
Bailey, an unheralded player at Riverside High in Avon, Miss., enrolled in the
National Guard to help fund his education if football didn't work out. After a
year of basic training he went to Mississippi Delta in the spring of 2003, and
it quickly became clear football was working out: He led the team in tackles as
a freshman, and D-I coaches began calling. Then in June 2004, as he was
deciding where to transfer the following year, Bailey got his orders. "I
was shocked," he says. "I didn't think that they'd send the National
Guard. I was ready to have a great season, so that news hurt."
After a year in
Iraq--he drove five-ton supply trucks while stationed 30 miles south of
Baghdad--the 21-year-old private returned home to Glen Allan, Miss., in
December. Last week Bailey, who stayed in shape overseas by hitting the weight
room three days a week, signed a letter of intent with Mississippi State.
( Alabama and Mississippi also made offers.) "I saw a lot of things over
there I didn't want to see," says Bailey. "After the past year,
football's going to be a breeze."