In Thursday night’s victory over Virginia Tech, sophomore Allen Bailey made it known that he is king of the backfield for the Hurricanes.
Bailey spends most of his time behind enemy lines, and he displayed this with his game-clinching sack of Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor on fourth-and-three with little over a minute to play. Bailey now leads Miami in sacks, with four, and is tied for the lead in tackles for a loss, with seven.
This year Bailey has made the transition from linebacker to the defensive line, but change is really nothing new for him.
Bailey grew up 15 miles off the coast of the state of Georgia on Sapelo Island. He lived in a community called Hog Hammock, where the population is around 80. It is a minuscule number compared to the 14,500 students currently attending the University of Miami, but the contrasts don’t stop there.
It only takes a Cane Card for students to eat at the dining hall. In Hog Hammock, you find your food.
“Growing up I would go out with my father to help him hunt,” Bailey said.
Bailey is also happy that he can walk everywhere on campus because transportation was never easy for him back at home. Throughout his childhood just getting to school was a journey.
“I’d wake up at 6 a.m. Then a bus would come around 6:40,” Bailey recalled. “That would take us to the boat that would leave by 7 and would get to the mainland at around 7:30. There would be a bus waiting to pick us up and take us to the school. We’d get to school in about 10-15 minutes from there. Then school would start at about 8 a.m.”
He would have to do the trip all over again to get back home.
By high school, Bailey would spend most weekdays overnight on the mainland in Darien, Ga. at a teammate’s home. This was not because the trek was too arduous but because the last ferry home left before Bailey finished football or basketball practice.
Despite these differences, perhaps the biggest difference between UM and Sapelo Island is the noise factor. Allen loves the peace and quiet back at home, especially for a man of few words.
“He’s really quiet,” said DeMarcus Van Dyke, a sophomore defensive back and Bailey’s best friend. “I call him the quiet assassin, because when he does talk, people listen.”
That is especially true in Hog Hammock where his aunt, Cornelia Bailey, says he has become the center of attention.
“Allen is our celebrity. When he comes home everybody wants to see him,” she said.
Bailey has always stood out in his community, as he is quite the physical specimen. At 6’4″ and 285 pounds, he can bench press 375 pounds and his vertical jump is a mind-boggling 38 ½ inches. That is three more inches than the highest vertical jump was for a defensive linemen at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine. Add his chiseled body to the mix, and seeing this man is enough to make one’s jaw drop.
Despite this, Bailey has always remained humble. When asked about his star status at home, Bailey was more interested in what it has done for his community.
“It means a lot to me. Hog Hammock is much more well-known now,” he said.
The notoriety of Bailey’s hometown has caught on with some of his teammates, who have expressed interest in getting a closer look at this unique atmosphere.
Said Van Dyke, “I told him one day he’s got to take me out there, so I can visit the island, check out the wild hogs and see what he’s been doing for 19 years before he came here.”
Taking a trip to Sapelo Island would not be a walk in the park for the players, and it might take them some time to get used to the lifestyle.
“They’d just have to get country when they get here,” Cornelia Bailey said. “They’d have to go hunting and fishing and gathering oysters and that kind of stuff.”
Bailey would like to take his game to the NFL when he finishes school, but eventually the Hog Hammock community looks forward to seeing a lot more of their pride and joy.
“We hope that when he finishes school and football that he will find someway to make his way back down here to live,” Aunt Cornelia said.
That dream could become a reality someday but, for now, Bailey is enjoying life in the fast lane. The Hurricanes have won five straight, thanks in part to his work on the D-line.
Though Bailey continues to get more comfortable in his new position, he has already gotten accustomed to his second home.
“I’ve enjoyed it here. It gets easier as it goes,” he said. “Each semester it gets better and better.”
Bailey returns to his home state to take on Georgia Tech in a nationally televised game Thursday night. Look for him to be a force against Tech’s O-line, as this defensive lineman will aim to sting Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt.
Sapelo Island, Ga.: