At around 5:50 a.m. each day, Sterling Bailey rolls out of bed and begins his next 24-hour cycle of learning how to be the best member of the Indianapolis Colts he can be.
Following several months of waiting, watching and hoping, the former East Hall High standout can finally focus on the one thing he loves the most: playing football.
“It’s a full day’s load,” said Bailey, who became a reliable defensive lineman for the University of Georgia. “But I know it’ll help me grow as a player.”
Bailey recently signed as an undrafted free agent with the Colts, ending what had been a long and tiring road to the NFL. As of today, the 23-year-old is halfway through his second week of the team’s offseason training activities.
Bailey started all 13 games in his senior year for Georgia, accruing 46 total tackles.
He’s gotten the chance to brush shoulders with several of the team’s leading defensive standouts, and Sterling’s brother Korentheus Bailey said he’s heard Sterling has already impressed head coach Chuck Pagano with his early play. Korentheus said that parents Kevin and Laura Bailey visited Sterling recently during one of the early workouts.
“He was getting to the quarterback really quickly,” said Korentheus. “And the head coach asks, ‘Who was that?’ and (Sterling) says, ‘It was me,’ so (Pagano) told him, ‘Really good job, son, keep it up.’”
Sterling worked diligently throughout the offseason to prepare for the Bulldogs’ pro day before meeting with several teams throughout the league to gauge his draft status. He’s currently listed on the Colts’ 90-man roster, but that will be cut down to just 53 players by the end of this summer’s training camp in August.
Should Bailey not make the 53-man squad, he can have a chance to make a 10-man practice team that helps to prepare the team for future matchups.
East Hall coach Bryan Gray, who coached Bailey during his time with the Vikings, said he gave Bailey a few words of encouragement ahead of the trip to Indianapolis.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got a shot,’” said Gray. “’It’s up to you to prove it. Show everybody how good you are.’ He’s got nothing to lose, so just give everything you’ve got.”
Bailey typically rises just before 6 a.m. each morning to head over to the team’s training facility, where he’ll engage in workouts, lifting sessions and several hours of playbook study before he finally gets a reprieve by dinnertime.
If Bailey ever has a question about a play or any other facet of living as an NFL player, he said he can always feel welcome to ask one of his older teammates.
“The organization is like a family,” Bailey said. “We take care of each other.”
Korentheus said he and Sterling like to bond over their shared football successes: Korentheus recently helped lead his semi-pro team, the Georgia Wolves, to a National Development Football League title.
“I’ve got a long way to go,” said Sterling. “But I feel like every day I’m improving on something, whether it’s my knowledge of the playbooks or the fundamentals. I’m taking every day one day at a time and not looking too far ahead.”