August 15, 2010

New Orleans swagger is evident in 2011 class

There's a distinct energy to New Orleans.

Whether it's food, music, funerals or floods, the city never fails to leave a distinguishable mark on whatever field it touches.

The trend translates to the football field as well.

At least according to Tulane's newest commitment, three-star Karr athlete Matt Bailey who became the fifth local prospect to commit to the Green Wave's current 10-player class.

"There's a swagger about players from New Orleans, whatever school they go to," Bailey said. "It makes a difference knowing how many New Orleans guys are coming to play at Tulane. We want to show that it's our city and our school and it's great the way so many guys are getting it.

"We want to turn it around and bring some of that New Orleans style to Tulane."

Green Wave fans can thank assistant coach Jason Rollins for the uptick in local recruiting. Each of the five New Orleans commitments pointed to Rollins' straightforward and relentless approach as a key factor in choosing Tulane.

"He's just great," Bailey said of Rollins. "He understood what I was looking for and I felt like he really cared."

Bailey now joins a trio of St. Augustine products (defensive end Lawrence Burl, safety Renaldo Thomas and wide receiver Marc Edwards) along with three-star O. Perry Walker running back Robert Kelley in the Wave's 2011 class.

And there's already some familiarity between them.

Growing up, Bailey and Kelley attended the same playground, becoming friends on the field prior to attending rival high schools. Edwards and Bailey attended the same summer football camp.

When he spoke with Rollins about the heavy New Orleans influence penetrating the class, Bailey grew increasingly intrigued by the idea of staying at home. Yet he still wasn't entirely sold.

It was Karr alumnus and current Wave sophomore Jordan Sullen who helped seal the deal by detailing the benefits Tulane had to offer and the advantage of staying home to play college football.

"Jordan just told me how great everything at Tulane was and I've known him for a while," Bailey said. "He's someone I trust and when he told me about how much he likes being there and how it offers everything I could possibly want from a school and program on the rise. I know him and (fellow Karr alum) Shakiel (Smith) are happy there and that was good to hear."

After initially pledging to Virgina under former coach Al Groh's regime, Bailey reconsidered his options this summer and decided he'd prefer to play closer to home so his friends and family could attend games and stay in contact.

"It was just too far," Bailey said of the distance between New Orleans and Charlottesville, Va. "I wanted to be somewhere that I could still see everyone. Tulane is probably a better school and it's right at home, so it was great place for me to choose."

A 5-foot-11, 190-pound outside linebacker in high school, Bailey projects as a prototypical nickel corner in Conference USA. Physical enough to notch over 100 tackles as a junior, he also possesses the speed and ball-skills to cover receivers in the secondary.

Regardless of the position he ends up at, Bailey only has one goal on the football field.

"I just want to make plays every time I can," Bailey said. "I want to be the guy who can change a game and whether that's getting interceptions or fumbles or tackles, I just want to make the play to win the game."

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