ARMY AA BOWL: Army All-American selection tour
GAINESVILLE, Ga. - The last snapshots were being taken and final hugs exchanged as Kevin Bailey glanced over toward his son Sterling, still basking in the glow of being named to represent the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
It was a moment that neither father nor son figure to forget anytime soon.
"This means so much to me. Growing up I played strictly basketball and never thought once about playing football," the East Hall defensive end said. "When I first got here, my coach said 'Hey, maybe you should think about coming out for the football team. I feel I made the right choice."
The rest, as they say, is history. No, really, it is.
With Thursday's announcement, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound commitment to the University of Georgia becomes the first player from Hall County to earn a trip to the prestigious game.
"It's exciting, it really is," East Hall head coach Brian Gray said. "We're a program that's struggling; we're getting a foundation built so this honor is very good. It kind of solidifies all the hard work that's going in. Something like this lets us know we're all going in the right direction and we're proud to have a player whose put so much effort in to get honored in such a fantastic way."
Not bad for a young man whose father once dreamed of him playing in another all-star classic.
"When he was growing up, my dreams where of playing in the McDonald's All-American Game," laughed the elder Bailey. "It never crossed my mind in a million years that he would be selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American football game. I just take my hat off and give God the praise. This is just unbelievable."
Both father and son are already counting the days to the game in San Antonio, set for Jan. 8 at 1 p.m. ET in the Alamodome.
Sterling Bailey's eyes got wide as saucers as he rattled off some of the game's high-profile alumni, a group that includes Reggie Bush, Tim Tebow and Vince Young.
Overall, there are more than 150 former U.S. Army All-Americans in the NFL today, including more than 40 first-round picks.
Bailey, who will enroll at Georgia next summer, is looking forward to showing what he can do.
"I'm looking forward to playing in this because seeing how successful everybody who played in this has been," he said. "If I do what I'm supposed to and keep on building once I get to college and hopefully to the pros, I can look back and thank the U.S. Army Bowl for making this happen."
Of course, representing the men and women who serve the country in the U.S. armed forces also gives Bailey a tremendous source of pride.
"Oh man, that means more to me than anything," Bailey said. "Seeing how they put their lives on the line and sacrifice so much for us, I just consider this a tremendous honor to be able to wear this jersey in this game."
No doubt big brother Korentheus is proud.
The older sibling is a 6-foot-2, 302 defensive lineman at Western Kentucky, and the person Bailey credits for helping to get him interested in football from the very beginning.
"He meant a lot to me, just letting me tag along with him and seeing what it was like, to see the success he was having," Bailey said. "Just seeing him have all his success, it made me want to push to be just like him."
He can't wait to make his mark at Georgia.
Bailey committed to the Bulldogs back in May, and although Mark Richt's squad has struggled to a 1-3 start, the affable young man said not to worry - he won't be turning his back on the red and black.
"No sir, I'm staying with Georgia," Bailey said. "I bleed red and black. My decision is not going to change. I know they've had a bad start and have started off slow, but I expect them to pick it up real soon. I can't wait to be a part of the team."