People who criticize Tim Tebow for what they perceive as his over-the-top religious beliefs or his inability to complete forward passes in the NFL often forget that he was the top-rated quarterback in the nation coming out of high school and had a legendary college career at Florida.
Bolingbrook's Aaron Bailey hasn't forgotten.
"I like Tim Tebow. I liked him when he was at Florida," Bailey said. "That's why I wear number 15, Tim Tebow's number. I like his character on and off the field. He's the same type of quarterback I am. I like how he doesn't say no, how determined he is, how he doesn't let anyone or anything bother him, how he always puts Christ first, how he ministers, how he isn't ashamed to talk about it."
Bailey, who quarterbacked Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship last year, is a very religious person. He never forgets "to give God the glory" whenever he scores a touchdown. Last season, he accounted for 40 touchdowns while amassing over 3,000 yards rushing and passing.
The 6-foot-2, 217-pounder hopes to do as well or even better in 2012 as he seeks to lead Bolingbrook to another state title. And then he will take his act to Illinois, where he is determined to become the catalyst for new coach Tim Beckman's program.
Bailey had more than a dozen scholarship offers, including Notre Dame, Northwestern and Wisconsin. But he chose Illinois over Nebraska "because I liked how they trusted me as a quarterback. I want to be a quarterback in college and that's what they recruited me for. Others recruited me as a wide receiver or athlete."
He is the stereotypical and prototypical quarterback who was born to run a spread offense, what Dan Persa and Zak Kustok were to Northwestern, what Donovan McNabb was to Syracuse, what Terrelle Pryor was to Ohio State, what Tim Tebow was to Florida, what Tommie Frazier was to Nebraska, what Juice Williams was to Illinois.
"He has speed (4.4), size and strength, what colleges look for in spread quarterbacks," Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow said.
"I feel I can fit into any offense, but the spread is pretty good," Bailey said. "I love to break down defenses, go to their weak points. I love to throw on the run. But I made a reputation as a runner because of the style of offense we run."
Ivlow's only advice to Bailey: "Just make your first read and go from there," Ivlow told his quarterback. "If you focus on your second read, you'll mess up. Don't over-think it."
In Bolingbrook's 21-17 victory over Loyola in the state final, Bailey rushed 33 times for 149 yards and scored on runs of 33 and 10 yards and completed 8 of 13 passes for 140 yards.
"I'm a dedicated guy who loves to win. I'm motivated. I don't take failure as an option," he said. "I read the end or outside linebacker. If they crash, I may pull the ball or give it to my running back. I love it when I'm in the open field, when I can decide if I want to cut back or keep running. I like the open field where I can be very creative."
Bailey believes he can be even better in 2012 than he was in 2011. And he can't wait until summer camp in June when he will begin working out with his teammates, particularly fullback Jaden Huff, running back Omar Stover and receivers Brandon Lewis and Chandler Piekarski.
"We're more hungry this year," he said. "We know every team will play against us like it is the state championship game. For us, it is very important to win two state titles in a row. That's our ultimate goal."
Individually, Bailey insists he has "a lot of improving to do," specifically his pocket presence. "I want to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball rather than run. I want to be a better player and work harder and have fun and not over-think things. In football, you can't over-think things. I want to have fun, just like last year," he said.
Bailey said he also can't wait to begin playing for Beckman at Illinois. Nebraska might have been his first choice in the early going but Bailey, his mother and stepfather clearly were impressed by Beckman.
"We prayed about (his decision) as a family," he said. "I felt comfortable about it. Why not play in your home state? It's a great school. I like (Beckman's) demeanor, his attitude, how he gets fired up. I can't wait to play for him. The spread offense is fit for me. I want to make my own name. I think we'll have fun and win some games."