JaQuan Bailey looks back and laughs when coach Matt Campbell said he looked like he had a tire in his belly
Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
ARLINGTON, Texas — Someone asked me Tuesday why JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State’s future career sacks leader, isn’t getting a lot of NFL love.
Matt Campbell smiled when I asked for his opinion. He understood the question.
“Just wait,” Iowa State’s fourth-season coach said at Big 12 Conference Media Days. “Just wait. He’ll be there.”
Just wait until the 6-foot-2, 255-pounder has another eight-sack season. Just wait until the rest of the college football world has seen what we’ve seen. Just wait until the 2020 NFL draft comes along.
By then, Bailey will be the best defensive end in Iowa State history. By then, he might even be planning a second visit to AT&T Stadium’s Jerry World, where he’ll be sacking the quarterback in the Big 12 Conference championship game.
Possibly, but that was my takeaway while watching the muscular senior walk into the home of the Dallas Cowboys for the first time Tuesday. He stopped in one of the end zones. He looked around inside the monstrous facility. It was as if he were envisioning playing here someday.
“Jerry’s got a nice place here,” Bailey said in awe.
If any Iowa State football player has grown up before our eyes more than Bailey, please enlighten me. Physically, he’s gone from a guy Campbell said looked a tad out of shape during the off-season between his freshman and sophomore years, to as impressive-looking as anyone on display at Big 12 Media Days.
“I told JaQuan it looked like he had a tire under his tummy,” Campbell recalled for me. “Now, he looks like a statue of what a defensive end should look like — the tire’s gone.”
Bailey was still looking around the stadium when Campbell recalled that gem of a quote. I later reminded him of what his coach had said. He laughed.
“I was probably 20 pounds overweight,” he said, shaking his head in bewilderment that he’d even let his body get that way. “I didn’t take my nutrition seriously until after my freshman year.”
Instead of Buffalo Wild Wings, for example, he does Chipotle.
“It’s healthier,” he said.
Instead of hanging out with his buddies, he was either in the practice facility or watching his video cutups.
“JaQuan, in every aspect of his life, has grown immensely — maybe more than any young man we’ve coached so far at Iowa State,” Campbell said. “JaQuan has grown in our football program. He’s now one of the great leaders on our football team. He’s as impressive as anybody in our program.”
Former teammate Brian Peavy put it like this:
“JaQuan — he’s an animal. He’s relentless. When you say he can’t do something, he’s going to prove you wrong.”
Bailey enters the Aug. 31 Northern Iowa season opener at Jack Trice Stadium with 18 ½ career sacks. He shares the record Shawn Moorehead.
“I will celebrate with my team, and then run to the sidelines — or line up and get ready for the next play,” he said.
The next question was obvious:
What about that play against Texas in 2017 — the third-down sack about which he was so jacked up that his somersaulting off the field resulted in a 15-yard penalty. Nine plays after the Longhorns should have been punting from deep in their territory, they were celebrating Chris Warren’s 11-yard touchdown run.
“I will never, ever forget that play,” Bailey said. “A lot has happened since then. I’m a totally a different person. I’m a totally a different player.”
But Matt, where’s the pro buzz?
“To me, there’s been plenty of buzz in the right circles,” Campbell said. “There’s so much fake buzz out there. The real buzz is that the kid’s a talented player — and there’s been a lot of NFL feedback about his skillset.
“The real NFL guys tell you the guy’s got a chance to play.”
Randy Peterson is the Iowa State columnist for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.
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Source: Des Moines Register