MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–When Rasul Douglas first arrived in Morgantown, things weren’t paved in gold for the former West Virginia University football standout.
It wasn’t until his senior season when Douglas opened eyes and that is what Hakeem Bailey is hoping for.
Last season the Atlanta, Ga. native was thrown into the fire for the Mountaineers and had his share of struggles.
“Everything was just fast but it’s starting to slow down now,” Bailey said.
The senior cornerback had plenty of support from his coaches and Douglas himself.
“I had some help from Coach (Doug) Belk and Rasul Douglas, I talk to him a lot too about being confident, playing confident, having a short memory,” Bailey said.
So how did Douglas go from his junior struggles to a star-studded senior season, where he came back and finished with a national lead-tying eight interceptions?
And that was the advice the Philadelphia Eagle cornerback had for Bailey.
“He came back last year and we just talked,” the Iowa Western Community College transfer said. “He just told me to be more confident in myself.”
Bailey’s new confidence is what he hopes will lead him to a successful final season at WVU.
“You need to have a short memory if you play corner, so Coach (Tony) Gibson and I talk about it all the time,” he said. “I always go back and look at my mistakes and learn from them.”
During the early portion of fall camp, the 6-foot, 190-pound corner is making his presence known.
“Right now, I think he’s probably had as good of a summer as anybody on the team,” Gibson said. “Talking to the strength staff, that was a guy they raved about all summer long and he’s got confidence right now. He’s a different kid. Hakeem probably didn’t say five words all of last year. Now he says ‘Hi Coach Gibby’ so at least we are getting three or four a day out of him.”
While he isn’t the most vocal guy on the field, he is determined to improve.
“He asks questions in the meetings but he’s not a vocal guy,” Belk added. “But his work ethic is unmatched. Him and a couple more guys in that room spend a lot of time together doing extra work, watching extra film, watching other people develop in their games.”
Bailey naturally understands the game.
“He’s worked hard,” Belk said. “We always talk about focusing on your strengths and developing your weaknesses, and I think that’s what he’s done. His football IQ is very high. So, he understands how to play with his skillset.”
As a senior, it’s the Pebblebrook High School alum’s turn to help the newcomers and younger corners.
“I’m helping everybody along the way,” he said. “I’m challenging everybody to step up because nothing is set. I still got to earn my spot.”
Despite being quiet, Bailey is ready for his new leadership role.
“I’m really the only corner in the room returning with experience, as far as the Big 12 goes,” he said. “I have to step up and be a leader. That’s something I had to do this spring after we lost Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle.”
With the season rapidly approaching, Bailey looks to put his best foot forward to help bolster the Mountaineers’ defense.
“I am still working to get better everyday,” he said.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS