Georgian soccer stars Harrison Bailey and Ricky White reunite at UNLV


Harrison Bailey barely knew Ricky White III the first time he recruited him.

He knew White was one of the best wide receivers in the greater Atlanta area. He thought he would complement the rest of the Marietta High School pass catchers as a quick and elusive target.

But the quarterback didn’t have White’s phone number — let alone the trust they now share as UNLV teammates. So Bailey reached out to him via Twitter, sending him a proposal privately: Let’s win Marietta a championship.

This time they connected via FaceTime.

Bailey and White tracked down the Rebels, transferred from Tennessee and Michigan State respectively. They helped Marietta win the 2019 Georgia Big School State Championship for the first time since 1967 after White left nearby Wheeler to catch passes from Bailey during their senior seasons.

The two sophomores are a talented transfer group for the Rebels, who begin spring football training on Tuesday under third-year coach Marcus Arroyo. And with the Power Five pedigree, the 20-year-olds are vying for starting roles and rediscovering the chemistry that produced 97 receptions, 1,319 yards and 16 touchdowns last season when they were teammates.

“I know when in doubt, if I need someone to win for me, I can go to my guy,” the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Bailey said, smiling on a couch at inside the Fertitta Football Complex while White sits to his right.

“They’re trying to change the program, and having a great quarterback is one of the aspects and factors of doing that,” the 6-foot-1, 175-pound White said moments later.

Their last dance?

They hail from Cobb County, Georgia, an area nestled 20 miles northwest of Atlanta and steeped in athletic tradition. Bailey was the whiz, getting his first Division I scholarship offer — from Miami — before kicking off a college-level nod. White was the late bloomer, blossoming as a top talent in his junior season.

The two didn’t have much of a relationship before the 2019 season. Just mutual respect cultivated through competition in camps and visiting leagues. But after a playoff loss in the 2018 season, Bailey went from four-star quarterback prospect to coach and scout by contacting White to quit Wheeler to play for Marietta.

White was introduced offensively to Wheeler, but in Marietta he could catch passes from the best quarterback in the state and fight for a state title in a receiving corps that included five-star tight end Arik Gilbert. .

White contemplated the move for a few weeks and received support from his parents, who moved to a residence in the Marietta area so their son could play for the top team in the state. White soon began training with Bailey, catching passes on the local pitches before finalizing the transfer the following summer.

Bailey capped off his prep career throwing for 4,674 yards and 50 touchdowns in the 2019 season. White settled into the slot, devastating opponents with his speed and elusiveness on open ground. The Blue Devils finished 13-2 with the state title.

Marietta earned an invite to GEICO’s State Champion Bowl series at Bishop Gorman High School. Bailey and White played what they thought would be their last game as teammates – a 53-14 thrashing against Washington’s Eastside Catholic on December 20, 2019.

“It was the last dance,” Bailey said.

It’s supposed to be, anyway.


Bailey and White contributed as freshmen to the next level. Bailey played six games for Tennessee, finishing with 578 passing yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and a 70.6 completion percentage. White caught eight passes for 196 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 win over Michigan, one of three games he played.

But last season seemed to prove they weren’t in their schools’ plans, ultimately sparking their unlikely reunion. Virginia Tech transfer quarterback Hendon Hooker moved Bailey and relegated him to the sidelines – and transferred the Gate midway through the season.

White did not play at all and his status was never revealed by Michigan State coach Mel Tucker. He entered the transfer portal in December.

Arroyo had recruited Bailey as Oregon’s offensive coordinator, a position he held for three seasons before joining UNLV. He again recruited Bailey, who had reconnected with White amid their transfer decisions. Bailey recommended White to Rebels and UNLV coaches to White, citing the common goal of a Mountain West championship.

“It was a no-brainer, basically,” White said.

Bailey and White said they were wooed by Power Five programs but sidestepped the glamor and glitz to sign with the Rebels. Bailey said he wanted to “build something instead of being part of something”. That sentiment resonated with White, too, and helped solidify her engagement three days after Bailey’s.

The two aren’t just teammates this time either. They are roommates, eager to recreate their Marietta magic in Las Vegas.

“We are 1,976 miles from home. Our house, our home. Now we’re in Vegas chasing our dream,” Bailey said. “Whenever we go through hard times or whatever, we always think about where we could be. It pushes us to be who we are.

Contact Sam Gordon at [email protected] To follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.


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