Former Syracuse Running Back Antwon Bailey Embracing Return to St. John's
It was not long ago when St. John’s running back Antwon Bailey was doing his own damage out of the Cadet backfield before the former DC Gatorade Player of the Year went on to find continued success at Syracuse. Bailey ran for nearly 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns for St. John’s before graduating in 2007, but the accolades didn’t start there. After struggling in Bailey’s first year on campus under head coach Greg Robinson, the program saw more success when then-head coach Doug Marrone came in to start the 2009 season. For Bailey, he started every game his senior year as his 1,000-yard season helped him earn All-Big East First Team honors.
“Being around the guys. We had some great times up there. My first year under Greg Robinson, we didn’t do that well. [Doug] Marrone came in and was able to turn things around, got to a bowl game,” Bailey told All Terrapins. “We had some great times, looking back the bowl game win and the wins were great, but those times when things got tough and we put the work in, 6 AM workouts with snow on the ground, just pushing through the adversity with those guys is something that’ll last forever.”
After signing with the Washington Redskins following the 2012 NFL Draft, Bailey made the switch into coaching, so it was a no-brainer for the WCAC standout to return to St. John’s to begin his new career. “Just going back into everything, the way that I was raised, how much the game has allowed me to see and learn the people and the people it’s allowed me to meet. I felt it was imperative to give back to the game,” Bailey told All Terrapins. “I tell people all the time, this game definitely saved my life and if I’m able to give back even half of what the game has given me, it’ll be a great accomplishment. A good amount of coaches that coached me who were there, who coached me when I played there, are still there, so that’s been great.”
Bailey served as the offensive coordinator and running backs coach when he returned to the program back in 2013 before being named offensive assistant at Ave Marie University (FL). But a big accolade came during his first summer of coaching when Bailey served as the 2013 Bill Walsh Minority Coaching Fellowship participant with the Buffalo Bills.
“I just decided I wanted to get in to coaching. My final three years in college, Doug Marrone was our head coach and he had gotten the Buffalo Bills job and my running backs coach Tyronne Wheatley was the running backs coach. We were able to work it out that I’d come up there through the Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship. It was a great experience, one, being able to see things on the other side of the curtain in terms of what goes into the coaching aspect preparation, the passion, the long hours. It was great getting that experience at the highest level and then bringing that back to the DMV.”
Now, Bailey has returned to St. John’s where he’ll once again lead the running backs under new head coach Pat Ward. “Being able to come back and be in their graces and continue on that path of the great things they’ve done is definitely refreshing for me, but also adds to everything I want to give back to the St. John’s community and the young men in our program.”
His return has given him a chance to reacclimate himself to his position unit, but he knows he’s in good hands with a pair of returning seniors. Colby McDonald and Antwain Littleton, a pair of Maryland commits, will look to bounce off each other in year four to lead an expected strong rushing attack next spring. “They’re two pretty big running backs. Of course you have Antwain with his size, but Colby is called lightning but he’s no small back himself. they’re two backs with great size, great feet. That’s rare to find and both of them are physical, as well. It’s probably not shown or talked about a lot, but you’re getting a full package. You see Antwain’s size, he has great feet, he has great hands and you have Colby being a bigger guy, being able to run the way he does and hit the home run. They both have a lot going for them, for sure.”
As Bailey and the St. John’s staff push through conditioning in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shifted the schedule of nearly all high school football, it’s imperative for Bailey to recognize the helping hands that helped him along the way. It’s a sentiment that even former St. John’s lineman Cam Spence noted before kicking off his own coaching career. “Respect is huge, no matter who or where you are, that’s something I’m going to give and something I will expect. A couple of things stick out to me, two things that were told to me at a very young age—and it probably came from Rashod Gillespie, who was my running backs coach when I was there—was to treat the boss, or the head coach, with the same level of respect that you give to the janitor. It’s about who you are and the person you’re trying to be. The other is the same people you pass going up the ladder, you pass them again when you fall off. Just going back to that, I’ve had some people help me and lend out a hand to me through this game and through life in general but most importantly, because of the way that I’ve treated them—the hard work, dedication, integrity—those things go a long way to me coming back to my old high school and work here, to work with PickSix Academy, to having my own running backs training company in the area. It’s been a blessing.”