When you talk to young cornerbacks in today’s game, there are a handful of names that they will mention. From the past they may bring up names like Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson, Darrelle Revis and occasionally Rod Woodson. They will also talk about current players like Richard Sherman, Pat Peterson and Jalen Ramsey. Lost in all this conversation will be discussions on one important figure in the world of cornerbacks, Champ Bailey.
Admittedly, I learned some things about Bailey in writing this article that I did not entirely know. One of them was just how productive a football player he was in high school. It would be hard to do more for a football team than Bailey did for his high school. At Charlton County High School in Georgia, Bailey was Mr. Everything and anyone coming behind him will have to live in his shadow.
Bailey rushed for 3,573 yards in his high school career including 1,858 one season. He holds the school record for touchdowns in a season with 28. He scored 394 points in his high school career. He also threw for over 1,200 yards. On defense he had 8 interceptions and amassed over 1,000 yards in kick off and punt returns. Obviously, an athlete like this was highly recruited and he was. In 1996, Bailey signed with and entered the University of Georgia.
Seizing on his ability to excel on both sides of the ball, Georgia played Bailey at both cornerback and wide receiver throughout his career. Bailey would total close to 1,000 receiving yards, 100 rushing yards and gain 500 plus yards in kick returns. Defensively, he had 8 career interceptions including one for a touchdown. He was a consensus All American his senior year in 1998 and won the Bronco Nagurski Trophy awarded to the nation’s defensive player.
In 1999, the Washington Redskins made Bailey their 7th overall pick. In the pre-draft run up, the Bulldog put up some unreal numbers at Georgia’s pro day. The most noteworthy figures were his 4.28 forty, 42 inch vertical and 22 reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press. Bailey posted some of the most eye popping numbers of any cornerback in NFL history.
For the Redskins, Bailey made an immediate impact nabbing five interceptions in each of his first two seasons in Washington. In 2002, Bailey combined three interceptions with an astounding 24 passes defensed. In five seasons, Bailey made the Pro Bowl four times. Unfortunately, Bailey and the Redskins could not work out a new contract and he was traded to the Denver Broncos after his fifth season in exchange for Clinton Portis.
In Denver, the party didn’t stop for Bailey as he continued making Pro Bowls and started adding All Pro teams to his resume. Bailey was an All Pro in his first three seasons with Denver as he piled up 21 interceptions over the seasons including a league high 10 in 2006. In six of his first seven seasons as a Bronco, Bailey ended the year in double figures for passes defensed, he was truly a shutdown corner. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Bailey retired completing 15 seasons in the NFL. He would end with 52 interceptions, 203 passes defensed, three touchdowns and over 900 tackles. This past summer (2019), Bailey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The man they called Champ was included into the group of the best to ever play the game.