Jake Bailey had a breakout performance for Rice football in their overtime loss to North Texas, but for him, those heroics could be just the beginning.
Everyone looks great in the offseason. Guys always seem to be in “the best shape of their career” and coaches rave about the “mental reps” their players took during the offseason. Those narratives are swiftly put to the test when the season arrives and sooner or later, reality happens.
Rice football wide receiver Jake Bailey was “that guy” this offseason. It was hard to leave practice without someone — either a Rice football staff member or one of his teammates — making sure to mention just how good Bailey looked on the field. During media days, team captain Jordan Myers called Bailey an “even better replacement for Austin Trammell.”, former Rice captain and current NFL player with the Atlanta Falcons. High praise, indeed.
Then Bailey took the field and quietly began to prove his coaches and teammates right. After a modest start, Bailey had seven catches for 65 yards in the team’s first win, a victory over Texas Southern. He had five grabs for 83 yards and his first touchdown of the season a week later against Southern Miss.
On Saturday against North Texas, Bailey exploded for a career-best 10 receptions and 143 receiving yards. Austin Trammell’s career-best receiving day? 143 yards.
The Roost Podcast: Debriefing Rice football vs North Texas and C-USA news
Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren didn’t link Bailey directly to Trammell, but he did make sure to call out the impact No. 11 has had this season. “He’s showing me the ability to make plays, no matter when he’s covered or not,” Bloomgren said of Bailey. “Heck of a player, still developing but really filling a lot of those roles we had hoped in the slot and beyond.”
Bailey admitted he wasn’t even keeping track of all those receptions as it was happening. “I wasn’t aware of the touches and the yards,” he said. “I’m thinking about winning the game. How can I help my team?”
Against North Texas, Bailey helped by being the go-to option for quarterback Jake Constantine in crunch time. Bailey caught a touchdown to tie the game on the Owls’ first possession of the fourth quarter. Then, trailing by seven with under two minutes to go, Bailey made a diving, fingertip grab on fourth and long that gained 36 yards and helped spark another game-tying score.
When Rice football needed a play, Bailey was there to help. “Every single day we talk about strain, giving that extra inch, extra fight,” Bailey said. “We always have a little more to give and that that’s all that was, just in that moment trying to do everything, anything I could to help my team win.”
Rice didn’t win this time but had it not been for Bailey’s heroics, they don’t even make it to overtime in the first place. Now that Bailey’s flashed his potential, he’ll continue to be asked to come through in the clutch time and time again. That’s a big responsibility, but so is being the go-to guy on fourth down with the game on the line.
“It’s pressure,” Bailey admitted, “but it’s definitely invited. When there’s pressure in the situation that means you’re doing something important. That means you’re doing something where people have to look at you, expect from you. It’s always a great place to be. I think pressure is a privilege.”
In this case, with that privilege come accolades. Bailey was named to the Pro Football Focus National Team of the Week for his efforts, slotting in alongside Heisman Trophy hopefuls like Oklahoma’s Caleb Williams and Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker.
If Bailey has put his name on a list with talents of that caliber — all the while his coach hints that we might have only scratched the surface of what Bailey can become — what’s next?
Never one to seek the attention for himself, Bailey defected the spotlight, focusing instead on the entire Rice football receiving corps. “I just can’t wait to see what we can do,” He remarked. “Hopefully, we answer when our number’s called.”
Operator, Jake Bailey, please. We’d like an encore.
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.