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.
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