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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 5

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 5 31 a day. By last spring, he was participating in team periods of practice, barely five months removed from surgery. By the season, he wouldn't allow soreness in the non-ACL knee — the surgery took the patel- lar tendon in the healthy knee to repair the ACL — to keep him from missing snaps. Unofficially, he played 737, the second-most among defensive players. That total would have been higher had he not missed a series-and-a-half against Illinois in the middle of the season. Bailey, begrudging- ly, kind of had to, though: He dislocated the ring finger on his left hand while trying to avoid a cut block. He had to go to the locker room to get the finger popped back into place and taped up, but he was back on the field as quickly as possible, joking lat- er it was like a pit stop in NASCAR, "got me in and out real quick." He didn't even consider not returning to the game. "There's guys playing with way worse injuries. That'd be an insult to the team," said Bailey, whose finger is still swollen, six months later. "I just want to prove that I'm tough enough to play through something like that. If I feel like I can help my team even being a little bit injured, I'm still going to play." Just check another box off the prototypical line- backer list. It's what Freeman did — the former coach once saying Bailey pushes coaches to be their best be- cause his expectations are so high, because he is never satisfied and always wants to learn more, to know how he can be great. It's what teammates do — Ezechuwku saying Bailey can probably play every linebacker posi- tion, and maybe even more than that on the de- fense, because he's so dedicated to learning the game and understanding everyone's role and then so determined to showing everyone he can do it well, too. It's what Robinson does — the GA saying Bai- ley's level of pride for Purdue and his own game is "unmatched" and earns immediate respect. It's what Holt has been doing all spring — the 'backers coach literally spouting off a list of loves about his weakside linebacker, first, intelligence, next passion, next competitiveness, next … "He has a couple innate qualities, he's smart and he loves to compete and loves football, and that's where you start with great players," Holt said. "He wants to be good. Then you add on top of that, he's a good athlete and he's got great hand- eye coordination. He's got good strength. He's got good explosion. He's got good size. He's got good speed. Now, is it great yet? No. But he'll work on it. "So hopefully he's going to be great at some of those things. He already has the intangibles and he's got good ability. Now, we've got to get him in the weight room (to get) 'great' ability. Football instincts, he has really good instincts. We can get better at that just by him looking at a little more film and not overthinking things and just being in our system. It's a great system for him because it highlights playmakers. "You just want more of him. You would love 22 of Markus Bailey." j

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