East Hall graduate and former Georgia defensive end Sterling Bailey hasn’t made a name for himself in the NFL yet. But he’ll have at least one more chance after he signed with the Carolina Panthers on Monday.
Bailey, 25, arrived in North Carolina Monday night and was with the team Tuesday for his first day of training camp practice. He could end up seeing preseason action as early as Thursday when the Panthers take on the Bills at 7 p.m.
“First of all, glory, honor and praise be to God,” said Bailey, a five-year player for the Bulldogs from 2011-2015.
Bailey said there were times this offseason when he doubted he would ever play football professionally again, adding that he “thought about calling it quits” on a couple of occasions.
So even though his agent had told him a few days prior that the Panthers were interested in him, hearing that the team was actually going to sign him still came as a surprise.
“I was just like ‘Oh man, this can’t be real,’” he said.
Despite his admitted doubts, Bailey said he has dedicated much of the offseason to staying in football shape, working out in Athens as recently as last week.
In fact, Bailey was on his way to another workout when he received the call that he would be a Panther from his agent. “I’ve just been keeping in the best shape possible so whenever I did get that call I could get right into it,” he said.
With the waiting and doubting period of the offseason behind him, Bailey will now turn his attention toward qualifying for the 53-man roster, a feat he has failed to achieve in his last four tries.
Bailey was initially signed as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia by the Colts in 2016, but was part of the final team cuts before the start of the regular season. He has since spent time on practice squads with the Colts, Seahawks, Vikings and, most recently, the Buccaneers.
Although each of those stops eventually ended with Bailey being waived by the team, he said he is keeping a laser focus on his latest opportunity and becoming the best football player he can be.
And while he said he’s not sure how much playing time he will get in the Panthers’ first preseason game on Thursday —if any at all — he plans on using every chance he gets to prove to the Panthers coaching staff that he belongs on an NFL roster, starting with the team’s exhibition against the Bills.
“If I do get out there I’m going to make the best of my opportunities,” he said.