Lamar High School football coach Scott Bailey has been coaching long enough to know that recruiting can be a tough business. Not just for the college coaches who spend their time mining the country for talent, but for the players they’re recruiting, too.
The situation his family is currently dealing with hammers that home.
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Bailey’s twin nephews, Sam and Ben Bailey, are key cogs for the two-time defending Missouri Class 2 state champions, seniors who will again pave the way for a run-heavy offense that produced two 2,000-yard rushers and averaged 48 points per game last fall.
Both grew up wanting to play college football for Missouri, but so far, the dream only appears to be an option for Sam, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound tight end/defensive end who became the Tigers’ 16th pledge for 2014 when he committed Sunday over offers from Army, Memphis and Tulsa.
Ben, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound offensive guard/defensive end, has college offers from Army, Missouri State, Southern Illinois and Western Illinois — but not Missouri, at least not yet.
“They don’t speak much to each other, but they’re never apart,” Scott Bailey said. “They are together all the time. So if one goes one way and one goes the other, I think they could make it, but it’s going to be hardest on their mom.”
Noelle Bailey is a single mother who currently works two jobs to support them. Scott Bailey said the twins’ father has never been in their lives.
“I’m super-excited for Sam, because it’s an opportunity he has been wanting,” Noelle Bailey said. “But my emotions have been teeter-tottering because on the other hand, I have another son who wants to play for Mizzou, too. So it gets to me sometimes. It’s been a little harder for us than I expected.”
So much so, that Sam politely asked his coach not to announce his commitment to teammates for fear of showing up Ben.
“That’s how protective he is,” said Scott Bailey, whose Lamar team has gone 27-3 the last two seasons. “This is a kid that cares about his brother’s feelings and his family.”
To the boys’ credit, both Scott and Noelle Bailey said the twins have handled the situation well. They have been in contact with MU offensive coordinator Josh Henson, who is their lead recruiter along with offensive line coach Bruce Walker.
“A coach was recently talking to Ben and asked him his motivation, and Ben teared up,” Scott Bailey said. “I told him to say what he has to say, and he looked at this guy and said ‘If we can get scholarships, my mom don’t have to work two jobs anymore.
“Ben has been nothing but mature about this. He shook Coach Henson’s hand and promised him he’ll work to get to a point where he’ll offer him.”
Scott said Oklahoma State and Kansas State were among the other high D-1 teams interested in Sam, though Army is the only Division I school to offer both. West Point, however, is a long way away from southwest Missouri, and the boys never really considered joining the military before the offer.
So for now, it looks like Ben would have to walk on at Missouri if the twins want to pursue their college dream together. Their recruiter, Henson, is a former Oklahoma State walk-on who eventually earned a scholarship.
“He’s not against that,” Noelle Bailey said of Ben. “But in my mind, he’s got just as much talent and heart and desire and drive to play at this level as his brother does.”
But paying for school could be a problem.
“What makes it more of a possibility than anything else is Ben’s attitude of, ‘I’m going to show you how you screwed up,’” Scott Bailey said. “But financially, it could be a reach.”
Scott Bailey said Sam — who has not been assigned a star rating by any of the four major recruiting services — accepted Missouri’s offer after spending time with Tigers commitment Kevin Pendleton, a three-star offensive guard from Lee’s Summit West who drove down to Lamar to work out with Ben and Sam.
“That pretty much sealed the deal,” said Scott, who said he is friendly with Lee’s Summit West coach Royce Boehm. “Sam wants to go to Mizzou with Kevin, and Ben wants to go to Mizzou with Kevin.”
In Sam, Missouri is getting a three-sport athlete who plays basketball and is the reigning Missouri Class 2 state champion in the discus (Ben, the state champion in 2012, finished second).
Scott Bailey said Sam, who is also a long-snapper, bench-presses 335 pounds, squats 450, power cleans 325, can run a 4.9 in the 40-yard dash and has a 30-inch vertical leap. He is the fifth offensive lineman in the Class of 2014 to commit to the Tigers.
Ben Bailey’s measurables are similar, though he’s now a bit taller (closer to 6 feet 6) and thinner than his brother. According to Scott, Ben runs a 4.7 40-yard dash, bench-presses 305, squats 440, power cleans 300, has a 30-inch vertical and could grow into a tight end or defensive end at the next level, though Missouri evaluated him at an offensive lineman.
“Ben is going to hit a growth spurt and he’s going to put on 20, 30 pounds, just like Sam did over the last year,” Scott Bailey said.
He said it remains unclear whether that would be enough to get an offer.
“In recruiting, most kids wind up at the level they are supposed to,” he said. “The process is brutal, but it normally works. They’re just keeping that in mind.”