IN 2004 juniorcollege recruit Timmy Bailey was weighing scholarship offers from programs suchas Texas A&M and Mississippi State. But the the 6'3", 240-poundlinebacker from Mississippi Delta Community College wound up making anunexpected detour--to Iraq.
When he was 17Bailey, an unheralded player at Riverside High in Avon, Miss., enrolled in theNational Guard to help fund his education if football didn't work out. After ayear of basic training he went to Mississippi Delta in the spring of 2003, andit quickly became clear football was working out: He led the team in tackles asa freshman, and D-I coaches began calling. Then in June 2004, as he wasdeciding where to transfer the following year, Bailey got his orders. "Iwas shocked," he says. "I didn't think that they'd send the NationalGuard. I was ready to have a great season, so that news hurt."
After a year inIraq--he drove five-ton supply trucks while stationed 30 miles south ofBaghdad--the 21-year-old private returned home to Glen Allan, Miss., inDecember. Last week Bailey, who stayed in shape overseas by hitting the weightroom three days a week, signed a letter of intent with Mississippi State.(Alabama and Mississippi also made offers.) "I saw a lot of things overthere I didn't want to see," says Bailey. "After the past year,football's going to be a breeze."