CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — 2022 Moline High School graduate Matthew Bailey is already making a name for himself as a playmaker for the Illinois Fighting Illini football team.
According to the official Fighting Illini football Twitter account, Bailey made history in the Illini’s Saturday 24-3 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers, becoming the first true freshman in all of college football to record a fumble recovery touchdown and an interception in the same game since 2006.
Bailey has appeared in all three games as a special teams mainstay and backup strong safety. Bailey is one of only four true freshmen to be listed on the two-deep depth chart.
On the season so far, Bailey has logged two total tackles, one interception, one pass deflection and also the fumble recovery that he recovered for a touchdown against Virginia. Illinois improved to 2-1 with the victory.
In an August 8. 2022 media availability provided by the University of Illinois' YouTube channel, Head Illinois football coach Bret Bielema gave high praise for the young defensive back from Moline.
When asked about potential newcomers who can make an impact in 2022, Bielema said, “The guy who’s led the charge more than any freshman is Matt Bailey. Bailey was literally running with our ones and twos and looked like he belonged. Just a very impressive kid. His overall demeanor, his intelligence, his football IQ. I don’t like to put a lot of pressure on a freshman. I’m not building up anything that's not there but he's a pretty mature kid that's got a lot of good football in front of him. Ironic how the world works in recruiting, he may have been one of our last signees. But I would predict when his time is up there's probably going to be 32 teams that are going to ask a lot of questions about him in the end. So I'm really excited about him."
If the first three games of Bailey's career is any indication of his future trajectory, he will continue to develop into a key piece for the Fighting Illini defense and potentially become one of the best football players to ever hail from the Quad Cities.
Named the 2021 Western Big 6 MVP, Bailey was also selected to the Class 7A all-state football team by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. In his senior season at Moline, caught 37 passes for a school-record 10 touchdowns and 802 yards for the Maroons team that nearly clinched a spot in the IHSA 7A quarterfinals.
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