Former Ram, Bailey Remains Determined to Play Football Again
Stedman Bailey knows all too well how just one moment can drastically alter a life.
In the fall of 2015, Bailey was living a dream – playing wide receiver for the St. Louis Rams.
But there was one hiccup.
Because he was serving a four-game suspension handed down by the NFL for a substance abuse violation, he was away from the team – and retreated to his native Florida.
But on a fateful day in November that year, Bailey was a victim of a drive-by shooting, shot twice in the head while sitting in a car with a cousin and the cousin’s two children.
The dream life turned into a nightmare.
He survived, but playing in the NFL was far from anyone’s mind for Bailey. The relative was also shot, but survived. The children were unharmed, miraculously.
Surviving that tragic night, living a normal life again became the priority.
Bailey has responded well to rehabilitation, and even went back to West Virginia University to finish his degree and work as a student-coach on Coach Dana Holgorsen’s 2016 coaching staff.
The players responded enthusiastically to Bailey’s presence. He is a hero in Morgantown, one of the finest wide receivers to ever play for the Mountaineers. In three years, Bailey amassed 3,218 yards and scored 41 touchdowns.
In 2012 alone, Bailey was named an All-American in his junior year at WVU, catching 112 passes for 1,622 yards and 25 TDs.
That kind of production earned him a notice by the NFL scouts. And credibility with the current Mountaineers.
“It was a cool experience last year at WVU, being on the coaches side,” Bailey explained. “It was different for me, but I know I have some tools that I can give the younger guys, to help elevate their game.”
Bailey said WVU fans can expect to have a big year in 2017.
“(WVU) has some offensive weapons at the wide receiver position,” he said. “And I hear Will Grier, the new (transfer from University of Florida) quarterback is doing extremely well. With a good field general, I think everyone else around him will excel.
“If there’s any way I can help them, I’m always down for it.”
After being released in 2016 by the now-Los Angeles Rams, Bailey was undeterred.
Making it back to the NFL, doing what he loves with the guys he calls brothers, that would mean total healing.
It’s a chance he must take.
He’s one medical procedure away from being ready, and cleared by doctors – to pursue that dream again.
It is expected to take place soon.
“That will increase my chances of getting back on the field,” Bailey said. “I’m hoping for a nice procedure so I can get back on the field this year.
“Physically, health-wise, I’m good,” Bailey added.
Bailey was a third-round draft pick in 2013, and has grabbed 59 passes for 843 yards and four touchdowns in his brief NFL career.
But he believes, there’s more stats to pile up.
But stats are secondary, of course. It would be the culmination of a lot of hard work to get back on an NFL field.
Bailey is a free agent, but has expressed an interest in returning to the Rams, where he was a fan favorite and where college teammate Tavon Austin still plays.
The Rams training staff has remained loyal to Bailey, he said, helping set up appointments with neurosurgeons and other tasks.
“They’re the guys that drafted me, so I like to stay in touch,” Bailey said. “I have a close relationship with the people there.
“Who knows where I’ll land, but hopefully it’s still with the Rams,” he added. “But at this point, I just want to play again. I’m doing everything in my power to do so.”
Getting back on the field would mean “everything” to him, Bailey said.
“Throughout the whole process, when the doctors came to my hospital room to ask me my goals, I told them, ‘I just want to get back on the football field,’” Bailey recalled. “I’m sure everyone was thinking, ‘But you just got shot twice in the head, but you’re still thinking about football?’ But yes, that was really what was on my mind.”
Being a man of strong faith provides extra motivation, Bailey said.
“That’s another reason,” he affirmed. “I’m big on faith. I’d had faith throughout this whole process. Everything is falling into place.
“Patience is a virtue, I know that,” Bailey added. “I know if I can make a return, it will open the eyes of a lot of people. I’m already a living miracle, by living through that situation. But playing again, would be very inspiring. That’s what I stand for – to inspire people. Faith – it’s about being about my Father’s business, a way of life.”