Stedman Bailey today made official what most Mountaineer fans were expecting for a while now – the redshirt junior has decided to forgo his senior season for a shot at the NFL.
“I kind of weighed out all of my options, sat down with my family, sat down with Coach (Dana) Holgorsen and we all came to the conclusion that this was the best decision for me,” said Bailey. “I thought it out for quite a bit.”
Bailey was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to college football’s top receiver, following a 2012 regular season that saw him catch 106 passes for 1,501 yards and an NCAA-best 23 touchdowns. Bailey was named a first team All-American by the Football Writers Association and CBS Sports.com, and was a second team choice by Walter Camp and Associated Press.
“I support him fully,” said Holgorsen. “I have had juniors in the past as receivers that have come out and if you put two good years together as a receiver and you are an underclassman, then you’ve got a chance to do some good things at the next level and that’s what they look for.”
Bailey had some monster games this year for the Mountaineers, producing a 13-catch, 303-yard, five-touchdown performance in West Virginia’s 70-63 win over Baylor, a 14-catch, 225-yard effort against Oklahoma State, a 13-catch, 205-yard, four-TD game against Oklahoma and an 11-catch, 159-yard, two-TD afternoon against Kansas.
Bailey’s junior season followed up a sophomore campaign in which he caught 72 passes for 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Miami resident said the fact that he is now a father also played a role in the decision making process.
“(His son) played into this decision,” Bailey said. “I have a family now and that pretty much comes first for me, so it all works out for me to go.”
“I didn’t have any conversations with him and he really didn’t need any advice,” said teammate and high school classmate Geno Smith. “That was a decision that he was going to make as a man on his own and I respect that. I don’t want to have any say in what he does because he is his own man and whatever he does I’m going to back him and support him 100 percent, and I think he’s going to do fine.”
Despite only playing three full seasons, Bailey will wind up his Mountaineer career owning the majority of West Virginia’s pass receiving records.
“It was hard when I began thinking about it,” Bailey admitted of the tug of remaining for his senior season. “I had another year here and I would like to do all I can to help those guys next year, but this is the best decision for me.”
According to Sports Illustrated NFL columnist Tony Pauline, Bailey is one of the top risers in this year’s NFL draft class. Wrote Pauline last month, “Bailey has taken a backseat to playmaking teammate Tavon Austin
despite the fact he leads the Mountaineers in receiving yards and scoring receptions … He's an underrated wideout and offers potential as a second receiver on the NFL level.”
“This is the first time anyone knows about my decision, so I’m sure I will start to get feedback starting later today,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he was pleased with the results he received after submitting his paperwork to the NFL gauging his draft status.
“It came back pretty good,” said Bailey. “I got some pretty good projections, so that factored in and played a role as well.”
Bailey’s final game in a Mountaineer uniform will be West Virginia’s Dec. 29 meeting against Syracuse in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York City.
“We’re going to treat him like one of the seniors,” said Holgorsen. “The truth of the matter is he came in with a lot of them. He came in with Geno, he came in with Tavon (Austin) and was forced to redshirt that first year or he probably wouldn’t have, which means he would have been a senior at this point anyway.”Send Stedman your best wishes on Mountaineer football's official Facebook page and be sure to click the "Like" button while you are there.