Henry Bailey, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1995-1996
First, can you let readers know about your post-NFL career. Tell us how you get started in your new career and why?
My current post NFL career is in the Market Research field creating, editing, and conducting political surveys. I got started in Market Research because of my desire
to interact with people and my passion for politics. Market Research allows me to effortlessly perform my duties and gather knowledge about a subject i care about.
Has your time in the NFL prepared you for your post-NFL life? Why/why not?
My time in the League definitely helped to prepare me for post NFL life. It allowed me the opportunity to practice how to function at a high level within a team setting, sacrifice personal gain for the unit and commit to something much bigger than myself.
The NFL also created a broader perspective of the discipline required and preparation needed to succeed at that level and i continue to live my life by these codes.
Market Research is similar in many ways because i ultimately have to perform well in a team setting, prepare myself mentally with the information and deliver a winner to the people or they would not be interested.
You were drafted by the Steelers in 1997. What were your thoughts on being drafted by the team then?
I signed with the Steelers as a free agent in 1997, after signing with the Buffalo Bills and NY Jets as a free agent in 1996. I was actually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round of the 1995 draft and was a part of the Super Bowl team that lost to Dallas in SB XXX.
My decision to re sign with the Steelers was primarily based on how diligent Coach Cowher was to have back, Coach Zooks commitment to me as his guy on special teams returning kicks and punts, and the Steelers maintaining the same offense from my rookie season in 1995 and the same offense I ran in NY with Coach Earnhart and Neil O’Donnell with the Jets.
I was happy to get back with CJ and Yancey because they were the best teammates I’ve had in my entire NFL experience.
You came into the NFL from a somewhat smaller program – UNLV. What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL game and how did you work on that as a player?
Coming from UNLV and the Big West Conference wasn’t difficult for me as player mentally or physically. I felt really good about being in the organization with it’s tradition and history and knew I would do what I always did on the gridiron and that’s play with passion and speed. The biggest adjustment for me was the fact that I was a running back in high school and about 40% of the plays I ran in my senior year at UNLV were plays from the slot in which I took a lot of handoffs and caught a lot of short passes.
Upon arriving at my first mini camp I focused on the realization that I was now required to run precise routes from the X or Z position and catch passes from NFL quarterbacks with my hands. It took approximately half a season to really feel comfortable using my hands to catch passes and run crisp routes. It primarily came down to me rationalizing with myself on a daily basis. The impact of running routes against Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Deon Figures etc was making me an NFL receiver and one day it happened.
Who helped you adjust to the team – both on and off the field – and how did they do so? Any examples?
The entire receiver unit was the reason I felt so comfortable and confident. A player would be hard pressed to find a better group of Men than Charles Johnson, Andre
Hastings, Yancey Thigpen, Ernie Mills, Corey Holiday, Johnny Barnes. We did everything together and treated each other with respect. I learned a little bit from each one of those guys.
At 5’8″, you were an “undersized” player. How did that influence your approach to the game and how do you think you excelled most as a player?
As a smaller player I always felt as if I had the advantage because I was quicker and faster given my size, so I approached the game with the mindset to avoid being tackled or hit – no direct shots.
I felt like if linebackers and defensive backs couldn’t catch me, they couldn’t tackle me. I think I excelled most as a return guy. Returning kicks was my responsibility and gave me the opportunity to directly influence the flow of the game in an instant.
You excelled on special teams. What made you effective as a return man – what do you think makes a player exemplary on special teams and what is frustrating for you not getting more opportunities at the receiver position?
My ability to shift speeds effortlessly made me effective on special teams. To be a great special teams guy I believe you must be fearless, you almost have to not think rationally about anything and react to what develops before your eyes.
There was no frustration on lack of playing time at receiver. I always believed my time would come and when it did I needed to be the best I could be.
The ’97 season was the first with Kordell Stewart as the starting quarterback. How did you see the team adjusting to that change and how did the players and coaches handle the transition?
I think 10’s transition and the coaches faith in his abilities made for a positive outcome. The team was behind Kordell because he was confident and knew he wanted to be the QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers, so everyone follow his lead.
Humor plays a big part in keeping teams loose. Who were some of the guys on the Steelers teams you played for that helped keep things light, and how did they do so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities?
Earl Holmes was by far the most candid, funny, happy, loosest individual on the team. It seemed like he would expend so much energy being comedian but he continued to play at a high level.
What are your thoughts on the way the game has changed today? Is it for the better or worse, and why?
I feel like the changes in today’s game slows the players down on a individual basis which creates doubt on the field. Player must be able to play at full speed to be effective and avoid injury. It is for the best in the Grand scheme of a players career to play this way for obvious concussion reasons.
What advice would you give to younger players today entering the NFL?
I would tell players coming into the NFL currently to enjoy every practice, every two-a-day, every meeting, and every game because one day you will wake up and it’s going to be over just when your mind is telling you that it’s not.