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Prep football: Bailey to anchor O-line for rebuilding Wonders

This is the first of eight features on area football teams.
Today: A.L. Brown
Next: Davie County
By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown offensive lineman Tavis Bailey excels at track and field but like most Wonders he concentrates on a collision sport that’s played in the fall.
“The shot put gets no love at all at A.L. Brown,” said Bailey whose unusual first name rhymes with Davis. “But the football team always gets lots.”
A.L. Brown’s football program is a blue-chip stock as consistent as that monthly bill you get from Duke Energy. The Wonders have reeled off 31 straight winning seasons.
Imagine that ó 31.
Jimmy Carter was a rookie in the White House and Disco music was the rage the last time Kannapolis football took its lumps on the green grass of Memorial Stadium.
The Wonders return a meager six starters from a 3AA runner-up team.
Schools with six returners usually get picked last. Naturally, Brown is everyone’s choice for first in a revised South Piedmont Conference that may as well call itself the Cabarrus County Conference.
Part of the reason for optimistic predictions is that one of Brown’s six returners is Bailey, who definitely passes the eye test. He is 6-foot-2 with a target playing weight of 255 pounds, but he is muscular, not bulky.
“Well, I was a linebacker in pee wees and a defensive linemen in middle school,” Bailey said. “But when I got to Brown, they looked at me and said, ‘Offensive line.’ ”
Many offensive linemen look rumpled or rotund, but Bailey looks like he could run pass patterns at tight end if needed.
“At the combines, Tavis ran extremely well ó in the 4.9s (in the 40),” said assistant coach Todd Hagler, who doubles as the Wonders’ offensive line coach and strength and conditioning guru. You look at Tavis and you’d think he weighs 230. He’s got a frame that can hold a lot more weight down the road, maybe 290, and he is extremely strong.”
Bailey looks as if he could bench-press Brazil, but he can’t. What he can bench-press is 325 pounds. He also hang-cleans 315 and squats 450, numbers that Hagler describes as “off the charts.”
“Hag works us hard in the offseason and I tried to come to all the workouts,” said Bailey, who earned a ‘Summer Warriors’ T-shirt. “I also did a lot of swimming. Swimming is good cardio and helps me relax.”
Bailey won’t get to relax much in 2009. Exactly where he’ll play isn’t certain because so much of the team, including the O-line, is being totally restructured.
He was the center in 2008 when the Wonders surrounded him with linemates such as fiery Chris Shaw and tall Markus Deel, but they’re gone now.
Hagler said Tyrone Langley, a backup last season, is ready for prime time and is best suited to play center. That means Bailey will likely move to a guard spot.
Bailey won’t complain about the switch, even though he realizes he’ll probably be a center at the next level.
“There’s a lot of interest in Tavis, but no one’s pulled the trigger yet with an offer,” Hagler said. “Probably it’s because he ended last season at 222 pounds and schools thought he was too small. But he got up to 260 in the offseason, and it was solid. He’s on the radar now for people. His best ball is definitely in front of him.”
Bailey is highly recruitable because he’s an A-plus student in the top 5 percent of the senior class.
He also is personable and fun to be around. All Wonders sell the familiar schedule/discount plastic cards that offer fans savings at local restaurants. Bailey is the runaway team leader in sales, moving cards at $20 a pop to perfect strangers. At the rate he’s raising money, Bailey may be able to purchase a bus by November.
“Tavis is a leader in the classroom, in the school and on the field, a very well-rounded guy” Hagler said. “He plays extremely hard and down to the whistle, but the best thing about him is he does not get frustrated. No matter what happens, he stays calm. I might go crazy and some of his teammates might go crazy, but Tavis stays even-keel. He has that knack for keeping it light.”
He also has a knack for being able to pick thing up quickly.
Brown’s track team turns out its share of good sprinters and jumpers, but Bailey became sort of a self-taught thrower, using his explosion and strength to become a factor in the discus and shot put as a junior.
“I learned mostly from watching videos on YouTube and trying what they were doing,” Bailey said. “Then I got in one lucky throw in the discus in the regional and qualified for states.”
It wasn’t all luck. He finished second in the 3A state championship meet in Greensboro.
Bailey and Wonder teammate Dillon Robinson, a sprinter, worked with the Salisbury Speedsters AAU program over the summer, and he’s still improving. He owns personal bests of 46 feet in the shot put and 165 feet, 4 inches in the discus.
But as Bailey admitted, there’s more appreciation for a well-thrown football than for a well-thrown shot in Kannapolis. Now track’s on the back burner, and it’s time to lead the O-line. There are huge, strong, talented people in the huddle, but Bailey is the Lone Ranger when it comes to serious experience.
“We lost a lot of guys so the big expectations that people have for us are kinda tough,” Bailey said. “But that’s a good thing. Those expectations will push us.”
Look for the Wonders to make it 32 in a row ó and counting.

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