EMORY, Va. – As a linemen at Abingdon High School, Daniel Bailey competed on successful football teams that helped galvanize a community.
Now that he’s been reunited with several former teammates at Emory & Henry, Bailey hopes to create more goodwill among another passionate fan base.
“The band is back together, that’s for sure,” Bailey said.
That Abingdon alumni band at E&H is led by prolific senior receiver Derrick Yates. The other members include junior receiver Max Yates, sophomore receiver Jeff Wallace and sophomore defensive back Carter Counts.
“Those guys are like my brothers,” Bailey said. “We had a great time in high school. I’m excited to see what we can do together this season.”
A senior transfer from Virginia Tech, Bailey currently has one year of eligibility remaining. While he never broke into the starting lineup at Tech, Bailey expressed no regrets about taking the challenging NCAA Division I path to Blacksburg.
“As a kid, Virginia Tech was the only school I was really interested in,” Bailey said. “I told my parents where I wanted to play. They helped with the recruiting process and things just worked out.”
But just seven practices into his first camp with the Hokies, Bailey received a bad break.
“We were having a contact drill when I put my hand on a guy’s hip and went to block him,” Bailey said. “When the guy pushed back against my hand, my wrist popped.”
That pop signaled a broken wrist. Surgery soon followed.
Bailey said the guy in the broken wrist incident was former Tech nose guard Tim Settle, who now plays for the Washington Redskins.
“Tim is a good guy and a friend of mine,” Bailey said.
According to Bailey, the bonds he made in a Hokie uniform were the best part of his college adventure.
“I would tell anybody to go for their dreams because the past four years were a special time for me,” said Bailey, who took one redshirt year. “In addition to lifelong friends and long-lasting memories, I’ve got the (bowl) rings and jerseys to prove it.”
One memory stands out. Flash back to Labor Day of 2018 when the Hokies traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, to face Florida State in a highly-hyped showdown.
“The Florida State fans were doing the tomahawk chop most of the night, the whole country was watching on TV, and we came away with the win. That was a special moment,” said Bailey, who spent the past two seasons as a reserve center.
For Emory & Henry head coach and former Virginia Tech offensive line guru Curt Newsome, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Bailey qualifies as a special addition to his starting lineup at right tackle.
“Daniel is a great kid and leader who always has a smile and I think he’s really enjoying being a part of our program,” Newsome said. “Having Daniel in our lineup sure makes us a lot better.”
Bailey said his love for the basics of football can be traced to his father. Danny Bailey was an offensive lineman and linebacker for an Abingdon team that advanced deep into the VHSL playoffs in 1979. He later competed at Bluefield State.
“We had my dad’s old game tapes converted over from VHS to DVD. I love watching those games along with dad’s workout videos,” Bailey said.
There’s a reason why Daniel Bailey will wear No. 74 for the Wasps this season.
“That was dad’s number, and it means a lot to me,” Bailey said. “It will be fun to play in front of family and friends.”
Daniel Bailey said he talked to a couple of E&H football assistants after graduating from Abingdon but his heart was set on Blacksburg. Bailey worked at left tackle for three years at AHS before moving to guard as a senior.
“I had a blast at Virginia Tech,” Bailey said. “I got to hit against those big boys that went to the NFL in practice and I was able to make fun trips to places like Notre Dame. I grew immensely as a person in the environment.”
Bailey maintains contact with his old Tech teammates, including former Union High School standout James Mitchell.
During Sunday’s media day session at E&H, Bailey seemed at ease with the complicated offensive system used by the Wasps. He also joked and posed with pictures with Derrick Yates, who sports the same Fu Manchu mustache as Bailey.
“When I had time off at Tech, I would come to Emory to watch Derrick and to hang with players like Josh Fleenor,” said Bailey, referring to a senior leader on the defensive line. “This past summer, I worked out and lifted weights on campus here with several players from this area.”
Naturally, Bailey and Newsome have discussed the finer points of offensive play.
“Coach Newsome is a very smart coach and we’ve talked a lot about football at the Division I level,” Bailey said. “It’s been to see that things work basically the same in this program.”
After earning his degree and completing what amounted to a master’s course in football at Virginia Tech, Bailey plans to enroll in an internship program for physical therapy at E&H. He’s also interested in the coaching trade.
“I love football and enjoy working with kids, so I feel like football will be a light for me in the future,” Bailey said.
So what is the coolest thing about playing football back at home?
“It’s the fans,” Bailey said. “Just like at Abingdon and Virginia Tech, there is a football culture in Emory and the program ranks among the tops in Division 3 attendance each year.
“I’ve got one year of football left, so why not compete with some of my old buddies and have some fun. I’m extremely comfortable with this team and school, and I think the future is bright.”
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