Scotland High School football coach Richard Bailey. [Andrew Craft/The Fayetteville Observer]

An old adage suggests that it's better to be lucky than good.

But Richard Bailey has been both when it comes to developing college football players during a 17-year career as head football coach split between Jack Britt and Scotland high schools. Bailey has inherited some great talent, like he did with tight end Aaron Kirkland in his first season at Jack Britt, and has been very good at nurturing others over four years such as Scotland grad and current Georgia running back Zamir White.

Overall, Bailey has had 20 players earn scholarships to programs at the highest level of college football, including three that will be on Football Bowl Subdivision rosters in 2018. They include Georgia's White, North Carolina linebacker Jonathan Smith and Georgia State defensive end T.J. Smith.

“I really do think part of our job as coaches is to get kids to the next level,'' Bailey said. “I've been blessed to have a lot of major-college players. A lot of that Division I stuff has to do with genetics. I've coached a lot of players who have been genetically gifted and that's been part of the success. My duty is helping them develop their football skills and help them get a chance for a (college) education.''

The fact Bailey has become a highly successful football coach and developer of gridiron talent is surprising since his forte was really baseball. He played football at East Carteret High School in Beaufort, but it was baseball as a catcher that he pursued for one season at UNC Wilmington.

Hoping to land a job as a baseball coach upon his graduation, Bailey instead took the only job he could find in the state as a football assistant at Gates County in 1991. He also served as a football assistant at Andrews and Pine Forest before being tabbed as the first head coach at Jack Britt in 2000.

Jack Britt drew its student body from several different county schools, including Douglas Byrd. One of the students reassigned to Jack Britt from Byrd was a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end named Aaron Kirkland. Kirkland went on to become Bailey's first major recruit when he signed with Tennessee in February 2002.

“I inherited a new school and the best high school tight end in the United States,'' Bailey said. “He was 6-4, 250 pounds and ran a 4.7 40-yard dash. He's already been in coach (Bob) Paroli's program at Douglas Byrd, had been lifting weights and was strong. It was just a blessing for me and helped get things going for me with that first class at Jack Britt.''

From the very start of his head coaching career, Bailey has understood the value of promoting his players to college recruiters.

Don Callahan, the longtime football recruiting analyst for Inside Carolina on the network, said Bailey was ahead of many other coaches around the state when it came to recruiting.

“He was not only accessible early on, but he'd be the on reaching out to make sure guys got publicity,'' Callahan said. “He made sure no kids fell through the cracks. Then once he established his program at Jack Britt, he was one of the easier coaches for me or any writer to deal with. He always had an open-door policy, was always a great quote and you'd go there for one kid and he'd always say 'watch out for this kid in the next class.' He was always making sure guys got recognition and writers like myself knew who was coming through the pipeline.''

Seventeen of Bailey's FBS players are from Jack Britt, including All-ACC offensive lineman Eric MacLain (Clemson), four-year offensive line starter at Florida Xavier Nixon, and former NFL cornerback Brandon Ghee. But it's White who may have been Bailey's most heavily recruited play.

White was ranked as the nation's No. 1 running back prospect last season as a senior at Scotland. He received scholarship offers from most of the top FBS powers, most notably Alabama and Clemson, Florida State and Ohio State, which have won the last six national championships. Georgia won an intense recruiting battle for the 6-foot-1, 226-pounder, who'll be a freshman with the Bulldogs this fall.

Whether White plays this season, however, is still to be determined. A knee injury suffered during a Scotland playoff game required surgery in December, but Bailey said White has bounced back well.

“They have a bunch of great running backs at Georgia, so I think they'll bring him along slow,'' Bailey said. “But it would not surprise me by mid-September or October that he's getting meaningful reps. He's close to 100 percent now and he looks good. But you're talking about he's literally seven months away from tearing his ACL. Still, you can never say never when it comes to Zamir White.''

Bailey is expecting to add yet another name to his FBS resume at some point during the 2018 season. Senior running back-linebacker Syheam McQueen has scholarship offers from Appalachian State, East Carolina, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Missouri, N.C. State, Old Dominion and South Carolina.

“It's humbling to think about all the players we've sent to the D-I level, but I'm even more proud of the I-AA, Division II guys who've come from our program,'' Bailey said. “The D-I guys, their recruitment really takes care of itself. The others you really have to work hard for because they don't get the publicity.''

A prime example is former Jack Britt defensive lineman Marques Murrell. Murrell was an all-league selection for the Buccaneers in 2001 and 2002, but because was considered too short at 6-2 by recruiters to play at the major-college level he signed with Appalachian State. The Mountaineers were a Football Championship Subdivision power at the time, and Murrell would spark them to two straight national titles. He would later spend four seasons playing in the NFL.

“I couldn't get anyone to give him a second look,'' Bailey said. “But he wound up being one of the best I've ever coached – a two-time All-American and just a heck of a player.''

Staff writer Sammy Batten can be reached at or 910-486-3534.

Produced by Hrisanthi Kroi