The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 14, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU’s Stedman Bailey shows his caring side

MORGANTOWN — Too often do you pick up your local newspaper or click on the television news and see the face of one of your local athletes staring back at you, the headline reading something like:

“Local Jock Arrested for Assault”

Or:

“Basketball Star Nabbed for DUI”

Or:

“NCAA Slaps Probation on School”

These stories are becoming so commonplace that they may no longer qualify as news, which a journalism professor long ago once defined as man biting dog, not dog biting man.

That is why, the other day at the Puskar Center, it was so refreshing to spend a few moments with a college football player who cares, one who understands good from bad, who is seems destined to make a mark on society not only on the field but off it as well.

Say hello to Stedman Bailey, West Virginia University wide receiver.

Certainly, Bailey could have been one of the bad eggs that find their way on college campuses because their athletic skills overshadow other shortcomings. He comes out of Miramar High in Florida, near Miami, but was lucky enough to have parents and a football coach in former WVU linebacker Damon Cogdell to guide him down the right road.

Cogdell has steered a number of recruits West Virginia’s way, including starting quarterback Geno Smith, and each of them has been not only a talented player but interested in their personal development as much as their athletic development.

Possessing huge hands and a bigger heart, Bailey spent most of his time thinking about today’s Big East Conference opener against South Florida, a huge game in that the Bulls have dominated WVU in recent meetings.

But he has also found time to begin something of a crusade.

Stedman Bailey wants WVU to wear old gold, blue and pink this month.

Pink?

Not a lot of it, just enough to say, “We care.”

He has been behind a movement to have the team recognize that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

He figures a wristband of pink, a pair of pink shoelaces or even a sticker on the helmet will do, show support without overdoing it.

“I just really support the breast cancer movement and think of all the people who have survived,” he said. “That’s pretty special. I wanted to show those people we’re behind them.”

Here is the most intriguing and telling part of Bailey’s push to include something in the scheme on a game day. His life has not really been touched by someone who had to go through the disease.

No sister or mother or girlfriend. Not even the mother of a friend.

“I’ve spoken to some people before who have survived it. It’s kind of sad, but it’s something I support,” he said.

It began innocently enough.

“I was speaking about it on Twitter,” he said.

He did not expect the feedback he got from Mountaineer fans.

“They said they’d love to see it,” he said.

That got him started.

“Why not?” he thought.

The first game of the month was UNLV, but he wasn’t about to go it alone. It certainly wasn’t because he would have been embarrassed to wear the pink, for as he spoke he was wearing a Toy Story backpack.

“I loved that movie when I was a kid,” he said.

He just felt this was bigger than one player.

“I didn’t want to do it unless it was a team thing,” he said. “I feel like it should be a team thing. I didn’t want to be the only person out there wearing pink.”

A very brief survey of a couple of seniors — Chris Neild and Jock Sanders — found no objection and coach Bill Stewart allowed that it was “a good idea” and said he would talk to Bailey about it.

If the Mountaineers do it, once again it will show that this is more than just a football team, but instead a group of people who take the responsibility of being a role model seriously and are willing to do something about it.

And, as for Bailey, what does this say about him?

“Maybe that I’m a caring person. I support those people, and I’m happy they made it through. For the people who didn’t … well, that’s tough to take,” he said.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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