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Ypsilanti — Sergio Bailey has grown leaps and bounds since his high school days in San Diego when he dreamed of one day playing Division I football, but knowing it was a long shot due to his grades.

Well, Bailey is now one of the top receivers in the Mid-American Conference, also owning a 3.3 grade-point-average while majoring in communications at Eastern Michigan.

In fact, Bailey helped the Eagles to their first winning season (7-6, 4-4 MAC) since 1995, and first bowl appearance since winning the MAC championship in 1987, grabbing 60 passes for 868 yards and seven TDs.

Bailey is now a 6-foot, 190-pound senior and named to the Biletnikoff award list for the nation’s best wide receiver. He will open up the season when the Eagles play host to Charlotte Sept. 1 before traveling to Rutgers on Sept. 9.

And, the Eagles’ goal is to get back to a bowl game, then win after falling to Old Dominion 24-20 in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl. EMU will try to have consecutive winning seasons for the first time since owning four straight from 1986-89.

“Last season just showed me I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to, just because playing Division I football was always a dream to me and I’m living a dream right now, just thankful for the opportunity,” Bailey said. “I remember when I graduated high school I thought football was over for me just because I didn’t have the opportunity, didn’t have any offers because of my grades and didn’t have my life together yet.

“I remember being in the gym at 24 Hour Fitness and saw my friends from my neighborhood playing Division I football on the TV as I’m running on the treadmill and that motivated me to keep my head down, work hard on my grades and on football (Southwestern Junior College, Grossmont College) to get better, and now I feel honored and blessed to be playing here.”

Bailey said it was a big learning curve in his first year at Eastern last season, learning plays and then building a relationship with quarterback Brogan Roback who is also returning for his senior year.

Bailey was at his best during the final nine games of the season when he had 43 receptions and six TDs, including eight for 143 and a TD in a 27-20 victory over MAC East champion Ohio.

“Sergio is sneaky good, and when people try to get in front of him, they can’t,” said Roback.

A LOOK AT EASTERN MICHIGAN

Last season: 7-6 (4-4 MAC West)

Coach: Chris Creighton, fourth year, 10-27

Outlook: The Eagles earned their first winning season since 1995 and their first bowl appearance since 1987 after entering the ’16 season with a 14-game MAC losing streak. They return senior quarterback Brogan Roback and a talented receiving corp led by senior Sergio Bailey and 6-4 sophomore Dieuly Aristilde. Defensive end Jeremiah Harris returns from a unit that allowed just 167.5 rushing yards a game last season, down from 316.8 the previous year when EMU struggled to a 1-11 record.

Top players: Brogan Roback, Sr., QB, (2,694 yards, 18 TDs); Sergio Bailey, Sr., WR (60 receptions, 868 yards, seven TDs); Dieuly Aristilde, So., WR; Ian Eriksen, Jr., RB; Shaq Vann, Jr., RB; Jeremiah Harris, Jr., DE.

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