Bolingbrook (Ill.) High School four-star quarterback Aaron Bailey knows with high expectations, comes hard work. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Illinois commit did exactly that, working hard during the offseason to add weight and keep his unique set of skills in prime condition.
"The offseason went really well," Bailey said. "I really spent a lot of time in the weight room and did a lot of running to keep my speed. I also did a lot of stretching so I could keep myself flexible and not lose any speed. And I worked with my quarterback coach a lot since last year to clean some things up."
Last year was a year to remember for Bailey, who finished with 2,008 yards rushing, 1,039 yards passing, and 40 total TDs. He also had a touchdown with five minutes remaining in the 8A state championship that gave Bolingbrook a 21-17 victory over Loyola Academy.
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To kick off the 2012 season, Bolingbrook defeated Plainfield South, 33-6, as Bailey accounted for four touchdowns (3 rushing, and 1 passing) and 253 yards of total offense. It was a great first step for the Bailey and his Raiders, who are once again expected to compete for a state championship.
"I think this season we are going to be very successful just like last year," Bailey said. "We have all the rankings and media as distractions, but we have to put those behind us and just play football. We have a very good team, we work really hard, and we are very motivated, so I am excited to get playing again."
As such a highly skilled player, Bailey acknowledges the success of his team lies within his hands. But he isn't worried about carrying so much responsibility, because he can rely on his strong leadership qualities to help guide his team through good and bad times.
"Most importantly, when things are going bad, I just have to keep the team positive," Bailey said. "I just have to keep everyone in a positive state because you're already hard enough on yourself when something bad happens. So you don't need to down your teammates and let it snowball; I need to keep them up and get them ready and focused on the next play. And I just need to make sure our team stays focused on one game at a time."
One big question mark in Bailey's game is his ability to pass. Last year he threw for 1039 yards, 10 TDs, and nine interceptions. Understanding that he must improve that aspect in his game with a spread offense at Illinois, he tried to patch up several glitches since last season.
"Working with my quarterback coach, he helped me get a faster release, get a little better footwork, and cleaned up a lot of small stuff that will help me become a better passer," Bailey said.
In just a year, Bailey will be sporting orange and blue as a member of the Illini. His skills will be a positive addition to the team, but he believes he brings more.
"I believe I bring great leadership, a positive attitude, and a determination to win," Bailey said. "I'll do whatever it takes to win."
Bailey expects to achieve great things at Illinois. He wants to be remembered years down the road by many Illini fans. But he believes to achieve big goals, he must first concentrate on the small ones.
"My first goal when I get to Illinois is just become friends with everyone and become a great team player," Bailey said. "I just want to get all the plays down, know what I need to know, get the whole college life together, and just go from there."
In Bailey's first year, he will be learning under quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. The two have already built a strong relationship and Bailey can't wait to be taught by the Illinois player he looks up to most.
"Whenever I go up (to Illinois), he always texts me and tells me he is on his way up there so we can chill," Bailey said. "You can tell we are going to get along already. We haven't really even talked a thing about football yet and we have a good relationship. And for me to work with him for a whole year would be great and I think I would learn a lot of things on and off the field."
Bailey has tried to help the Illinois coaches by talking to several Illinois prospects about all the great things Illinois to offer.
"I joke with a four of my teammates about coming to Illinois and tell them the good things about the school," Bailey said. "I talk with Parrker Wesphal and we joke around about it. My running back, Omar Stover, says he has an offer from Illinois and he will probably consider committing there. And I talk to my two receivers, Brandon Lewis and Chandler Piekarski, who don't have any offers right now but would be really interested in Illinois if they do. But I try not to pressure anyone too much if I talk to them because it's their decision."
Bailey had some words he'd like to share with all Illinois fans.
"Get ready for a wild, fun rollercoaster," Bailey said enthusiastically. "Get ready for a lot of fun and a lot of intensity. I plan on doing a lot of things at Illinois-on and off the field. I just plan on having a great career there and I can't wait to get started."