MADISON — Madison Central high school has sent one kicker to Conference USA, and before the season has begun, another Jaguars’ place kicker hopes his leg will have him playing in the SEC next year.
Madison Central senior place kicker Ross Bailey put up some great numbers as a junior last year. The two-sport athlete, who also plays soccer at Madison Central, is hoping to get more opportunities to kick field goals and his patented sky-kicks on kickoffs this season that will woo the collegiate scouts. He is hoping for a scholarship from an SEC team, but the Jags’ leg will opt for any opportunity to play at the next level.
“I’d prefer to go to an SEC school,” Bailey says. “But if Memphis or Southern Miss offered me a scholarship, I’d seriously think about it. I wouldn’t turn anything down right away.”
Bailey’s predecessor at Madison Central was Stephen Gostkowski who is now a place kicker for the University of Memphis Tigers. When Gostkowski was a Jags’ starting place kicker, Bailey was warming up with his junior high team. He says the elder Madison Central standout offered him instruction before moving on to the NCAA.
“I’d kicked with him a bunch of times when he was here and he’d tell me that my last two steps needed to be explosive, so I need to still work on that,” Bailey adds.
Bailey says he had a few chances to catch Gostkowski in action last season, but his favorite collegiate kicker is Ole Miss’ Jonathan Nichols.
“He’d been real consistent the entire year. I was surprised he missed two (in the LSU game last season),” Bailey comments about the Ole Miss place kicker who missed two field goals in last season's loss to the eventual National Champions — the LSU Tigers.
But for Bailey, he says he would like to follow in Nichols’ footsteps at Ole Miss. This past summer, Bailey attended a kickers’ camp at Ole Miss and worked with graduate assistants that are part of the regular coaching staff at Ole Miss. He also attended a camp at Mississippi State.
“At both camps the first thing we do is kick from the right hash-mark, nine yards back, which is the harshest angle. We’d start off with that and then move around,” Bailey says.
As the 2004 season is just a couple of weeks away, Bailey says he hopes to improve on last year’s numbers. In 2003 Bailey was 3-of-6 kicking field goals. His long of 43-yards came in a playoff loss to South Panola. Bailey was also 100-percent on point-after-attempts (PATs), 32-of-32.
As a kicker, most often fans remember when they miss a PAT or field goal attempt, but few can forget Bailey's kickoffs against Clinton in 2003. Bailey played a big part in the 21-18 win by kicking two sky-kicks that both resulted in turnovers, which led to eventual Jaguar touchdowns.
“They (the coaches) told me to do a pop-up right,” Bailey remembers. “I was just trying to get the ball up high. The Clinton guy didn't catch it, so we kept kicking it to him until he caught it — he never did.”
The Madison Central football team will feature mostly upperclassmen on defense and offense. The Jags also have depth at most of the skill positions.
Bailey’s parents, Ron and Terri of Madison, hope the Jags have on-the-field success that turns into increased kicking opportunities for Ross.
“I think he has the capability to be a good kicker this season,” Terri Bailey says. “I think his team will be good, and last year I didn’t think he had the opportunity to kick as often as he would have liked to.”
His father realizes, however, that sometimes colleges sign kickers sporadically compared to other players they seek.
“That is something that is very challenging to say the least,” says father Ron Bailey. “Some schools will at best recruit a kicker every other year. Sometimes the cycle is longer than that.”
In addition to the upcoming football season, Bailey also looks forward to soccer season. Bailey has been a midfielder the past several years for the Jags, and he opted out of competing with his Jackson Futbol Club during the late spring and summer so he could concentrate on his football kicking technique.
The senior kicker who says his favorite subject is history would like to join his sister, Jessica (Madison Central Class of 2002), who is a junior at Ole Miss. Unlike his sister, but more like Nichols, Bailey would prefer being the next All-American leg at the state university.