Two weeks ago, when former Oklahoma State placekicker Dan Bailey learned he had made the Dallas Cowboys' final roster, he quickly telephoned OSU special teams coordinator Joe DeForest.
"He called to thank me," DeForest said. "I told him, 'What are you thanking me for? It was all you.' It was an honor to coach a kid like that. He worked harder at his craft than any kid I've ever been around."
The kid who played eight-man football at a high school with no goalposts is now an undrafted rookie kicking for America's Team.
"His story is phenomenal," DeForest said.
Indeed it is.
Bailey was class valedictorian at Southwest Covenant, a private Christian school of 300 students (pre-K through 12th) in Yukon.
A member of the National Honor Society, Bailey made All-State, All-Conference and All-City as a placekicker, which is heady stuff considering his school had no football field and played nothing but road games at the time.
"Nobody really kicked in eight-man football," Bailey once explained. "You just went for two every time."
Bailey introduced his school to the PAT. So he could hone his craft, Bailey constructed his own goalpost out of PVC pipe and cemented it into the ground. "I wanted to play, so I had to make do," Bailey explained.
That was only the beginning of Bailey's unlikely journey to his current residence.
Bailey's high school perseverance and performance caught they eye of then-Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.
Bailey passed up a full scholarship to Ohio University to accept an offer from Nutt, who told Bailey he could walk on at Arkansas and receive an academic scholarship that would cover tuition.
After Bailey failed to earn the starting job prior to the start of his freshman season, Nutt told Bailey he would have to pay his own way because they didn't realize Bailey's partial academic grant would count toward the team's 85-scholarship limit.
"It wasn't anything intentional," Nutt told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at the time. "I can promise you that. I wish things had been made clearer."
Nutt told Bailey he could earn a full scholarship by January if he performed well on the field, but this follow-up offer did little to appease Bailey and his parents, who couldn't afford to pay out-of-state tuition, room and board. Bailey returned to Oklahoma before the Razorbacks' 2006 season opener.
An idle Bailey eventually called OSU.
"He asked, 'Could I try to walk on?' I said, 'Oh my gosh, absolutely,' " DeForest said. "I thought the world of the kid coming out of high school. He worked his tail off. It's a credit to him and how far he's come.
"Sometimes specialists get knocked that they're a different breed, that they're freaks and all that, but Dan Bailey is as level-headed a guy you will ever meet."
Bailey arrived in Stillwater as a walkon in January 2007 and left carrying the 2010 Lou Groza Award winner as college football's most outstanding kicker.
He is OSU's all-time scoring leader with 370 career points (breaking Barry Sanders' 22-year-old record of 330) and during one stretch made 182 consecutive PATs.
Bailey was one of only five placekickers invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis last February.
"I was optimistic I would get drafted, but I also knew only one or two kickers get drafted every year," Bailey said. "I knew there were a couple of guys on the board who were just as good, if not better than I was. I wasn't too concerned, though. I was hopeful I would get a shot either way."
Only 24 placekickers have been drafted since 2001.
Since the NFL Draft began in 1936, only three placekickers have been taken in the first round – Princeton's Charlie Gogolak in 1966 by Washington; Arkansas' Steve Little in 1978 by St. Louis; Florida State's Sabastian Janikowski in 2000 by Oakland.
Bailey's name was not called during this year's draft, the league was in the midst of its 136-day lockout and on May 25, Bailey married his fianceé, Krista.
"I was kind of stressed, getting married and not knowing if I had a job or not," Bailey admitted.
On July 28, Bailey went from being an orange-clad Cowboy to a silver-starred Cowboy and signed as a free agent with Dallas.
Incumbent kicker David Buehler has a big leg. Bailey's range isn't as long, but he's long on accuracy. Bailey immediately applied pressure to Buehler by missing just two of his first 24 field-goal attempts at training camp.
The Cowboys kept the kicking competition lively throughout camp, also giving auditions to UCLA rookie Kai Forbath, 10-year veteran Shayne Graham and five-year man Dave Rayner.
Bailey beat all comers and became the Cowboys' 19th kicker since owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989.
As of right now, Buehler is the kickoff man while Bailey handles PATs and field goals. From exactly how far away the Cowboys believe in Bailey remains uncertain, however.
"We haven't really discussed that much," Bailey said. "Obviously, David has a really strong leg and I wouldn't be surprised if they had him out there for longer field goals, but there hasn't been a cutoff yardage discussed. I think we'll kind of cross that bridge when it comes."
Buehler was retained for kickoff duties, particularly with the starting point being moved up to the 35-yard line. "I want that ball to go into the end zone," Jones said during the preseason. "Seriously, I want it to go there every time on kickoffs."
Meanwhile, back in Oklahoma, longtime Bailey believers can't contain their contentment.
Susie Nix was Bailey's counselor at Southwest Covenant and said the school kept Bailey's makeshift goalpost for the practice field. The school now has a regulation football field it shares with the city of Yukon, but still no goalposts.
It was Nix who spoke to college coaches when Bailey was being recruited.
"His grades weren't as consistent as I wanted them to be, but his kicking sure was," Nix deadpanned. "This is a wonderful young man. It's a miracle story."
The miracle continues in The Metroplex.
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.