Davidson's Bailey quietly leads Purdue on defense

Andrew Erickson
Purdue's Markus Bailey is second on the team with 43 tackles and tied for first with 3½ sacks. [L.G. Patterson/The Associated Press]

Many envision a football captain as a figure at the center of the locker room delivering a rousing monologue before a game.

That’s not Purdue junior linebacker and captain Markus Bailey. Instead, the Hilliard Davidson alumnus is more likely found pulling a teammate aside with a word of advice or pointing out something on the field.

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“I’m not the guy giving the crazy, dramatic speech. I’m not going to try to force it, either,” Bailey said. “When I see something, I’ve gotten better at just saying it. And even though it may not be as dramatic or as well-said as some other guys, I can say what I need to say and get the message across.”

Bailey said he continues to work on the vocal aspects of captaincy. Leading by example, however, has long been his style as a Boilermaker.

Through the first half of Purdue’s season, the junior linebacker has proved himself with production. Bailey enters his seventh game of 2018, against No. 2 Ohio State, second on the team with 43 tackles and 5½ tackles for loss and tied for first with 3½ sacks.

Bailey has consistently been among Purdue’s leading tacklers during his time in West Lafayette, but his duties have changed some. As a redshirt freshman in 2016, he did not record a sack. Last season, he had seven. The change is due in part to a more aggressive scheme under co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Nick Holt.

“If I see him call a blitz, I know he’s wanting us to be productive, wreak havoc, go make a play, mess (the opposition) up somehow,” Bailey said. “I know I’ve got to make something happen, so there’s definitely an incentive to make a play. You want to play fast when you have that coach putting trust in your position calling blitzes.”

Purdue’s coaching staff will rely on Bailey’s playmaking once again as the Boilermakers prepare for an Ohio State offense that is fifth in FBS in scoring offense.

“For us to win, he has to play well and I think he knows that,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “He takes on that responsibility well. I’m definitely glad he’s on our team. If he plays a great game, it will definitely help us.”

Bailey committed to Purdue as part of the class of 2015 because he said the program gave him the opportunity to earn snaps early. He recorded 12 tackles as a true freshman before suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament that caused him to miss the final nine games of the 2015 season.

“There were times when I didn’t know if I was going to be able to come back and be the same player,” he said. “A lot of mental battles, going through adversity, but at some point I just had to flip the switch and tell myself I can either keep feeling sorry for myself or I can do whatever I can to get back and be the best player I can be.”

It might not be through Oscar-worthy speeches, but two and a half seasons and 229 tackles later, Bailey continues to motivate the Purdue defense.


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