By BOB REDD
Special teams. While the offensive and defensive units on a football team oftentimes receive the praise and glory from fans, without a strong special teams unit the offense and defense can suffer.
Russell Bailey is a terror on special teams for the Concord Mountain Lions. A senior from Liberty High School in Raleigh County, Bailey takes pride in his work on the team’s special team units.
“I want to be that special teams dude,” Bailey said. “If I can’t contribute on offense or defense, I want to be a contributor on special teams. My coaches and the rest of the players on special teams, they put me in situations where I can make plays.”
This season Bailey has blocked two punts, one against Bowie State and the other against West Virginia Wesleyan. While Virginia Tech may have Beamer Ball, Concord has its own version of Bailey Ball.
CU head coach Garin Justice said, “Seems every week we’re talking defense and Russell Bailey on special teams. He’s our special-teams captain. He takes a lot of pride in it.
“Usually you think of special teams, ‘Well, that guy must be a great safety, or must be a great wideout, or must be a great this or that.’ Russell’s a great special teams player. He loves being a special-teams player.”
Against UVa-Wise, Bailey recorded five tackles and four solo tackles, a career high in both categories.
The ultimate team player, Bailey said individual stats and glory do not give him motivation, it’s all about the team.
“I don’t really pick a play for myself (as a season highlight),” Bailey said. “We had a good special teams day against Fairmont State. We had a blocked punt, a decent kickoff return, but as far as myself, I don’t really care about personal achievements. It’s about us as a team.”
Justice spoke of Concord’s special team units.
“We call our guys who are on three or more special teams our ‘Pride.’ We say Mountain Lions travel in prides,” Justice said. “So our prides are the guys who take pride in special teams, the four or five guys who are on all of our special teams and travel in that pack.
“They really do a good job.”
Bailey came to Concord under former coach Mike Kellar and has seen the program grow under Kellar and continue under the current staff of Justice.
“Before I got here they said it was horrible,” Bailey said. “But since I’ve been here we’ve done nothing but take another step each year and everyone has bought into the program this year.
“Every year they’ve bought in slightly but surely and now this year everyone bought in from day one and we’re here now.”
The ‘here’ of which Bailey speaks is the final game of the season and a chance to claim the Mountain East championship. The Lions host Shepherd on Saturday afternoon with first place going to the winner.
“It’s a huge game, the first MEC title, championship, inaugural season and I would love to bring it back to Athens,” Bailey said.