Josh Kendall

Despite NFL temptations, Zack Bailey stuck around for senior day. Now it’s here

There was a time Zack Bailey was considering not having a senior season.

“I sent my stuff in to (the NFL) to see where I was, but I was a semester away from my degree and my degree means a lot to me,” South Carolina’s senior left guard said. “I’ll be the first one in my family to get that.”

Bailey’s family will be in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday to celebrate with him on senior night along with 19 other players who will be honored before the 7:30 p.m. game against Chattanooga. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound Summerville native will be starting his 36th career game.

“It means everything,” Bailey said of senior night. “All of the fans, I hope they’ll be there, I love them,” Bailey said. “I wouldn’t change anything I’ve ever done here. I love this place. This place is home. Definitely, I love the surroundings, I love the environment and I love our fans.”

Bailey has started 24 games at guard, eight at tackle and three at center in his career. Barring an injury, he will finish his career with 39 starts, almost cracking the school’s top 10 in that category.

“He’s just a steady performer,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “You know what you’re going to get every day on the practice field. Tough, hard-nosed, physical. He’s been a really good football player for us here at South Carolina. The consistency that Zack brings every day, to me, is what impresses you as far as just a guy that just comes to work every day with his lunch pail and goes to work. And we’re going to miss Zack.”

Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley called Bailey “one of the more physical guys on the team.”

“You see it each and every game, the physicality he brings,” Bentley said. “He’s a leader for our offensive line and a leader for our offense. He’s a great teammate and just a really good guy to be around off the field. He’s down to earth.”

Bailey will earn his criminal justice degree in December.

“It just wanted to knock it out,” he said. “I will have something when I leave here. If the NFL doesn’t work out, I’ll have something to look back on.”