Chiefs’ Defensive End Allen Bailey’s low-key demeanor goes high gear on the field.
Story by David Smale
Allen Bailey grew up on tiny, sleepy Sapelo Island, Ga., where the population is around 50. Almost everybody who calls the island home is related. There are no traffic lights or even stop signs. There are no schools. Life is slow and easy.
So Bailey, a third-year defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs, grew up taking things easy. Until he got on the playing field.
“I got brothers and sisters, all older but one,” Bailey says. “Growing up in a household of seven, it was just us. You’d have arguments and fights. After dinner, we’d all go outside and play football or basketball and then it would get competitive.”
One of his older brothers, Quentin Wilson, was the first one to get involved in inter-scholastic football, and Bailey wanted to be like him. Bailey attended McIntosh County Academy, where he excelled in basketball and especially football. He packs 285 pounds on his cut 6’ 3” frame, and he attracted interest from “pretty much everybody” in football. He narrowed it down to five or six schools before his senior year and finally settled on the University of Miami.
At the 2011 NFL Combine, the pre-draft conglomeration of draft-eligible football talent, Bailey had the third-highest vertical leap of any defensive lineman, at 36’ 5”. The Chiefs selected him in the third round, with the 86th overall pick, and he recorded his first sack against Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay Packers in week 15.
Coming into his third season, he says he’s ready for a breakout season under new coach Andy Reid.
“I’m going to try to get 10 sacks this year,” he said prior to the start of training camp. “With this new defense, we can make plays happen.”
Bailey says that Reid and General Manager John Dorsey have brought a new attitude to the Chiefs.
“I like the change,” he says. “We’re working hard. We have a new offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, and it looks good. We’re building a bond together. [Reid] is direct. He’s organized. He knows when to be a player’s coach, but he also knows when to be a head coach and get after us to get things done.
“The attitude in the building is more relaxed. It’s more comfortable and more organized. People walk around smiling. But the field is still pretty intense. We’re in and out and we don’t waste time.
“We have the players on this team; we just have to learn to play together.”
Bailey has adjusted to life off Sapelo Island. He learned early that there was a big world outside his familiar surroundings. With the last school on the island closing in 1978, students have to take a 20-minute ferry ride to catch a bus to school every day. At the end of the school day, they have to take a bus back to the ferry to head home.
Earlier this year, KC Chiefs Allen Bailey was featured in an ESPN video, where he discussed growing up on Sapelo Island, Ga. and ponders the future of the dying historic community.
The last ferry to leave the mainland leaves at 5:30, or a half-hour after high school football and basketball practice ended. So when Bailey was old enough to play sports, he’d spend his weeks at a friend’s house on the mainland and return home on the weekend.
At Miami, he says he learned a strong work ethic. “We worked hard as a team,” he says. “I was already a hard-worker, but at Miami I learned what I needed to do to get to the League. Miami has produced so many NFL players that I knew I had to listen. To have some of the NFL players come back and train with us was inspiring.”
His first two years with the Chiefs have been less than he expected. He’s battled nagging injuries, including an ankle injury that landed him on Injured Reserve midway through last season. He’s played in 26 games, none as a starter, and has 15 tackles and one sack. He’s also recovered two fumbles. But he expects that stat line to change dramatically this year.
“I’m looking to stay healthy, first,” he says. “And I want to be more productive.”
With linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as pass-rushing specialists, and nose tackle Dontari Poe plugging up the middle, if Bailey reaches his goals he says the Chiefs have potential to make noise on defense.
“We can lead the league in sacks,” he says.
Bailey, like a lot of players, gives back to the community where he grew up. He also wants to get more involved in the Kansas City area besides visiting foster children as he has done already. He wants to speak to high school kids and motivate them to stay in school and work hard. He had his first football camp last summer in Georgia and hopes to add to that in future years, both in Georgia and Kansas City.
But the Sapelo Island lifestyle never gets too far out of Bailey’s consciousness. He goes back as often as possible to get recharged.
“People who are from the mainland come over there and they don’t want to leave,” he says. “It’s slow, man, real slow. There are no traffic lights, no stop signs, dirt roads. It’s a real, close-knit community. Everyone is pretty much family. I mean, related by blood. It’s low-pressure. It’s low everything, no stress, nothing like that.”
Just don’t get him on a playing field.