Markus Bailey could have declared for the NFL Draft after leading Purdue with 115 tackles during his junior season.
But something about Purdue’s 63-14 loss to Auburn in the Music City Bowl last December didn’t sit right with Bailey. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound linebacker from Columbus, Ohio, felt like he had more to prove.
“I didn’t want that to be the last example I had of me playing for Purdue football, going out like that, with that game,” Bailey said. “I have a chance to come back and change it.”
With Bailey’s decision, Purdue’s streak of having at least one player taken in the NFL Draft since 1998 ended. But the Boilermakers are glad to take the tradeoff. As one of just eight seniors on the roster, Bailey will be counted on to help lead a young defense as the Boilermakers begin fall camp this week.
“I’m going to do everything I can and be more comfortable in the role, accept the role,” Bailey said.
In addition to the 115 tackles, Bailey led the Boilermakers with 5.5 sacks, recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown during Purdue’s emotional 49-20 upset of Ohio State last season.
“Markus has been a great leader for us, obviously,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “I think he has to be more vocal this year, which he’s done a great job to this point, this spring, this summer. He understands that he’s a playmaker on that side of the ball. He is our most experienced guy. He loves to compete.”
Bailey feels like the best way to lead is by setting an example through work ethic in practice and communicating with teammates.
“If you want to be an effective leader, it’s not easy at all,” Bailey said. “There’s times, you know, where it’s like, I don’t want to have to do this. I don’t want to have to deal with this. I just want to worry about myself.”
Bailey said he will need to push through that mindset while continuing to develop as a player, through both physical training and film study. A three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Bailey said his nose for the football comes in part through seeing ways to get off blocks differently. Bailey has six career interceptions, two career forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
“I’ve always just kind of been detail oriented, but then I’ve been playing football since I was 7 years old, so I’ve definitely developed and catered that skill directly to the game,” Bailey said.
Bailey said the loss to Auburn in the Music Bowl impacted not just him, but the entire Purdue program. It was a sour end to a breakthrough season. Despite upsetting eventual Big Ten champion at Ross-Ade Stadium earlier in the season, the bowl loss dropped Purdue to 6-7.
“That definitely made us change our strength program and how they approached it in the spring and the summer and recruiting-wise and everything,” Bailey said. “We’re just trying to minimize the gap that we may have had, playing against an SEC team caliber like that. We need to have better player development, better guys overall.”
But Bailey said there were also several mental breakdowns in the bowl loss that led to big plays. Overall, Bailey thinks it was a wake-up call to the program.
“I don’t think anyone would have said we arrived going 6-6,” Bailey said. “So we still have a long way to go, and hopefully we can take some big strides this season.”