Johnny Bailey made a Pro Bowl for the Phoenix Cardinals back in 1992, when he led the NFL with 13.2 yards per punt return. He averaged more than 11 yards a punt return as a rookie for the Bears in 1990. But Rod Graves — now the Cardinals’ general manager who was part of the Bears’ front office that drafted Bailey back in 1990 — doesn’t think football when he first thinks of Bailey.
“I remember Johnny as a delightful guy who always had a smile on his face,” Graves said.
Bailey died last week of pancreatic cancer. He was just 43, and only 18 years removed from his all-star season (a picture of Bailey’s Pro Bowl appearance is below).
Only 5-foot-8, Bailey was a superstar at Division II Texas A&I (then Texas A&M-Kingsville), leading all Division II colleges in rushing in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He won the Harlon Hill Trophy — Division II’s Heisman — three times. Graves, who was also from Bailey’s hometown of Houston, and the Bears saw enough to look past Bailey’s size and draft him in the ninth round. Later, Bailey came to Arizona (he also played for the Rams), showing off his spectacular return skills for a couple of years.
Tags: Johnny Bailey, Rod Graves
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