Pilot Point alumni Tyrone Bruce and DaCoven Bailey are back in town for the holidays from their first semesters in college, eager to relax and see their friends and families.
Bruce and Bailey graduated from Pilot Point High School in May and went to college on football scholarships.
Bruce plays center for Alma College, and Bailey plays both receiver and defensive back for Rutgers. Alma College is in Alma, Mich., and Rutgers is located in New Brunswick, N.J., outside New York City.
“It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had so far,” Bruce said about his first semester away from the comforts of home. “I think it was the right choice for me go up there and find something new. I’ve found new friends and it’s been a new atmosphere. I’m living my dream of traveling and it’s started off right.”
Bruce was close to making his first collegiate start in week three of the season, before a meniscus injury sidelined him for the year.
“The Friday before the game, right before I was going to be announced as a starter, I tore my meniscus. That ended my freshman year real quick,” Bruce said. “I’m going to come back next year to contend for a starting spot.”
It was a tough break that took a toll on Bruce.
“It was pretty devastating,” Bruce said. “I found out around week five that I was going to miss the rest of the season. It hit me pretty hard.”
Bruce said the thing he misses the most about Pilot Point is his friends and being around family.
“I miss my boys,” Bruce said. “College is different than high school. You’ve got to make a name for yourself and get to know people. Sometimes I miss the friends and the fan club back home.”
Bailey said his transition from a small town like Pilot Point to a big school like Rutgers has been smooth.
“It’s been great,” Bailey said. “Going to a big school was a change that I needed. I’m trying to become a grown man and take that next step. It’s been a real journey. I’m glad I made the choice to go all the way up to New Jersey.”
The year didn’t go the way Bailey or Rutgers planned as the Scarlet Knights suffered one of its worst years in school history, going 2-10 and 0-9 in the Big Ten.
Bailey said his team “could never put a complete game together.”
“It wasn’t like we got blown out by every team,” Bailey said. “We’d have good quarters here or good drives there; we just couldn’t put it all together. Once we do that, we can be a really good team.”
Similar to Bruce, Bailey missed the relationships he had in Pilot Point with close friends.
“I missed my homeboys,” Bailey said. “It’s different up there, you’re out there on your own and you’ve got to meet new people. Here in a small town, you don’t have to talk as much and you’re already around people who truly care about you.”
Bailey talked about the difference from being the big man on campus during his high school career at Pilot Point to having to make a name for himself for the Scarlet Knights.
“I knew since day one whatever college I went to I was going to have to put in the work to put my name out there,” Bailey said. “It really doesn’t matter if I’m the man or not; I just want to go out there and do what I love, and that’s playing football. At the end of the day if I’m doing that, I’m satisfied.”
Bailey broke his thumb in his first game for Rutgers, so he spent most the year playing on special teams.
While Bailey’s in town, he’s going to focus on working out and staying in shape for spring ball.
Bruce is going to undergo knee surgery and start rehabbing for the upcoming season.
Bailey and Bruce have known each other since the fourth grade. Bruce playfully calls Bailey’s mother, Shileta, his stepmom.
“While I’m here, I’m definitely going to go over there and spend time with her,” Bruce said. “When I moved down here in the summer of fourth grade, she took me in and treated me like one of her own.”
Bailey said there’s something else he is going to do, without a doubt.
“I’m going straight to my garage and hosting the Madden tournament all my friends have been talking about,” Bailey said as he laughed. “I’m also going to get off my feet and see my little sister and brother for the first time.”