Praying for Jennie
Nov. 9, 2013
BY TRAVIS CRAM
Jennie Bailey has been a mom at Texas Tech for 27 years.
There are more than 2,000 of them and everyone has worn the scarlet and black.
"They're all my kids," Bailey said with a smile. "
Bailey takes care of recruiting and the student-athletes once they arrive in Lubbock to begin their journey as a Red Raider football player. Her day-to-day duties include helping arrange the recruiting visits for the next aspiring student-athletes while helping run the President's Select group - Tech's student recruiters.
But ask anyone else and her main job is simply being "mom."
College and football can take a toll on kids and for 27 years Ms. Bailey has always been there for each one of them.
"When you are a freshman, a sophomore, a senior or even here coaching - football is very hectic," co-offensive coordinator and former quarterback Sonny Cumbie said. "One thing that's always been a constant is Ms. Bailey. She's everyone's mom. Always a smile on her face, always here for us all the time. There's a reason the players would always congregate in her office and that's because her energy is just so infectious."
Texas Tech and football are her life. And both suddenly were in jeopardy in March.
"I started getting headaches - bad ones - and originally I thought they were migraines and I had trouble recalling things, even something like coach Kingsbury's name," she said.
"Someone would start talking about a conversation I had with them and asking if I remember talking about that topic with them and I couldn't."
The headaches never went away and even became so bad that Bailey and her son rushed to the hospital on the night of March 20 after she stayed home from work that day.
She knew something was wrong but didn't have the clear understanding until physicians returned with her MRI scan that night.
"It was a tumor in my brain," she said. "I really still didn't have a clear understanding of it all until we saw those scans.
Bailey had two neurosurgical procedures over the next four days while Tech football players, athletics staff members and family prayed for their Mama B to come back soon.
"That was tough to know what she was going through," senior linebacker Terrance Bullitt said. "Knowing what it was like and seeing my brother go through the same thing. I just wanted to do anything I could to make it better for her. I wanted to take it away from her but just knew I couldn't do that."
The news at first was troubling for Bailey, especially after she was told it would only be a matter of weeks or months for her to get her affairs in order.
"When they said it was brain cancer, it wasn't so hard on me as I feared it would be on everyone around me. I think the thing I was more worried about was not wanting to see the pain everyone else was going through because of me."
But then after several treatments, things took a turn for the better. As Bailey's health rallied, so did her former players who were now back at Tech as coaches - perhaps at the perfect time.
"It kind of gives you that feeling about how God puts us all here for a reason and maybe brought us all back here to Tech," assistant coach and former linebacker Mike Smith said. "We came back to coach this team and to do something special here. But maybe the real reason was so we could be here for Ms. Bailey."
The staff and President's Select members gathered together to form "Team Jennie" and immediately start raising funds for Bailey. They held their first event at Nick's Bar and Grill in Lubbock in May to announce the Jennie Bailey Fund.
The group helped raise more than $20,000 through the event and fundraising, including selling purple bracelets with "PRAYING FOR JENNIE" inscribed on them and the verse Luke 8:50 - `Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well."
"The moment I heard that verse, I knew that was the perfect one to put on the bracelet," she said.
Bailey has remained fearless through her battle, while still believing and never doubting what might come next - good or bad.
But what came next was a special event and day once again at the Texas Tech Football Training Facility. Coach Kliff Kingsbury's Women's Football Clinic was reporting record numbers for their attendance this year. The head coach's women's clinic chooses a group or philanthropy to donate money raised each year. And this year the choice was pretty simple - Ms. Bailey.
Participants went away from the traditional scarlet and black and wore purple t-shirts with what have become iconic Kingsbury sunglasses on one side and "Prayers For Jennie" on the other.
At the end of the event, the women participants, players and staff gathered for a presentation as Kingsbury presented a check for $10,000 to Bailey - the most money ever raised at a Tech women's clinic.
"When I heard they wanted to donate the money to me, I was just blown away," Bailey said. "These guys - this group - mean so much to me and I've never felt like I deserve any of this. But for them to choose me just means the world to me."
The news couldn't be better now for Bailey and her Tech family. Her last scans show no new growth of a tumor while she continues to have chemotherapy once a month.
Even then, all she could think about was being at work each day, as Mama B.
"Positive attitude is good for anybody when they are going through tough circumstances. So it not only helps me to be around everyone here with this staff and their positive attitude but I hope the players and everyone keeps a positive attitude by seeing me here each and every day.
"I truly believe God kept me here to give me a chance to be around this team and to give me a chance to share my voice and experience with everyone in hopes of helping them. These players, this school and this staff - they mean so much to me. They make me a fighter and I hope I always do the same for them."
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