COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Zack Bailey knew it was bad the second it happened.
The former South Carolina offensive lineman remembered the exact moment when his leg was broken playing against Akron in the Gamecocks’ season finale.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Bailey said. “I felt the pop. I felt everything. So, it was immediate and, as soon it happened, I knew something was wrong. So, I just kept rolling. I was trying to get out of the way of everybody else.”
It turns out that pop that Bailey felt was more than that. It was a broken fibula, according to team officials and it kept the Summerville native out of the Belk Bowl and on the path for rehab and life after college football.
“When I was on the field, it was sad,” Bailey recalled. “It was the last game at Willy B. That’s not how you want to go out, but by the time I made it back to the training room, I was saying, ‘Alright, what do we need to do? Talking to doctors. Talking when, where, who’s going to do the surgery. Talking about recovery. When is it going to happen? Things like that.”
Bailey went through surgery but still wasn’t able to participate in drills to gear up for the NFL Draft. However, it was while Bailey was sidelined that he reached his lowest point.
“After surgery, I was on a scooter for seven and a half weeks,” Bailey said. “I’m in Nashville. All of those guys are training. I’m watching them every single day.and all I want to do is just run. All I want to do is do the drills with them. Sitting on the sidelines isn’t fun. It’s not something I do. I wanted to be out there with them running, doing drills, having competition, racing, whatever it may be. Sitting on the side and just watching, that was kind of the lowest point that I got to.”
Ultimately, Bailey received an invite to the NFL Combine. However, he opted not to run to ensure that he was completely recovered from surgery. Rather than running at the combine in Indianapolis, Bailey worked out during South Carolina’s Pro Day at the Jerri & Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility. Bailey took part in several drills and spoke to several coaches throughout the day hoping to make a good impression ahead of the draft.
“The biggest goals were just to run,” Bailey said about his time at Pro Day. “When you break your leg and you become immobile, you realize how much you depend on your legs. So, just being able to run, being able to get back and show that I’m full go, to be able to do O-line drills, to show that I don’t have any pain, there’s no soreness, there’s nothing. The rehab stages that I went through have been awesome just preparing for this and everything’s been great so far.”
Bailey hopes to hear his name called in the NFL Draft, which begins on April 25.