Markus Bailey has experienced enough the past few years that his belief in what he can achieve on and off the football field never has been stronger.
The past few weeks, his biggest goal has been convincing NFL executives that his body is as up to the task as he thinks it is.
A 2015 Hilliard Davidson graduate who made Academic All-Big Ten three times for Purdue, Bailey is among the players from central Ohio who are hoping to be selected during the NFL draft, which will be held April 23-25.
Bailey, who started 40 games at linebacker for the Boilermakers, has been living in Phoenix and training at the Fischer Institute.
There, he has worked with Brett Fischer, a physical therapist consultant for the Arizona Cardinals who also has trained Myles Jack and Tyrann Mathieu, NFL players who, like Bailey, have endured an ACL injury.
Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the 6-foot, 235-pound Bailey was forced to hold a "virtual" pro day April 3. He's been in contact with numerous NFL teams, updating the status of his rehabilitation after tearing his right ACL last September.
"We've been training with 10 people or less, of course, but we have an NFL group that trains in here," Bailey said. "My situation is different because I'm coming off an injury right now. (The recovery has) been great. It's been ahead of schedule the entire time."
Bailey is projected by most mock drafts to be selected toward the bottom of the seven-round draft, which also should include Ohio State's Malik Harrison, a 2016 Walnut Ridge graduate, and DaVon Hamilton, a 2015 Pickerington Central graduate.
Bailey's academic success spans to his days with Davidson when he was named the OCC's Ernie Godfrey Hall of Fame Award recipient in 2015. The award is given to a senior letterwinner with at least a 3.0 GPA.
Bailey, who was a running back and linebacker for the Wildcats and had 92 tackles as a senior to help Davidson earn its seventh consecutive Division I playoff berth, played in three games for Purdue as a true freshman in 2015 before tearing his left ACL.
He returned to start all 12 games in 2016, totaling 97 tackles, six tackles for loss and four interceptions.
Bailey then started 13 games in 2017, recording 89 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks, and 13 games in 2018, leading Purdue in total tackles (115) and sacks (5.5). Also in 2018, he returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State as the Boilermakers upset the No. 2 Buckeyes 49-20.
After earning a bachelor's degree in movement and sport sciences in December 2018, Bailey began pursuing a master's degree in leadership at Purdue and served as a co-captain for the Boilermakers last fall.
Named a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy, presented to the nation's top scholar-athlete in football, Bailey recorded 10 tackles in a 34-31 loss to Nevada on Aug. 30 and had four tackles in a 42-24 win over Vanderbilt on Sept. 7.
However, during a practice before Purdue's game against TCU on Sept. 14, Bailey tore his right ACL, ending his redshirt senior season.
His profile on NFL.com describes him as a "lunch-pail linebacker able to consistently chalk up production totals in a variety of columns despite a lack of top-tier athleticism."
"After I tore my ACL (after) Week 2, I signed with an agent shortly after and I was advised that (the Fischer Institute) was the best spot for me to do rehab, and we've had great results," Bailey said. "I was happy with my decision to go to Purdue and my career overall. I had some ups and downs, but I developed as a human being, as a man, as a player and as a member of society."
The NFL announced April 6 that the draft, originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, would be "fully virtual" because of the coronavirus. The first round will be held April 23, followed by rounds two and three on April 24 and rounds four through seven on April 25.
Harrison split time between quarterback, strong safety, punter and linebacker for Walnut Ridge before playing linebacker full-time for Ohio State.
A two-year starter for the Buckeyes who played 53 games, he had a team-high 73 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season as Ohio State went 13-1.
Many mock drafts have the 6-3, 247-pound Harrison slated to be picked on day two of the draft or early on the final day. According to his profile on NFL.com, his draft grade is a 6.34, a scale which projects him to be a starter within his first two seasons. He's listed as the No. 5 overall linebacker in the draft.
Harrison, who was named first-team all-Big Ten and third-team All-American last season, was a first-team all-district linebacker for Walnut Ridge as a senior in 2015 when the Scots shared the City League-South Division championship while going 7-3.
Harrison has put on about 30 pounds since leaving Walnut Ridge.
"He's taken great advantage of the weight program at Ohio State," Scots coach Byron Mattox said. "He's been building his body up and increased his knowledge. Each year watching him play, he played a lot faster and more confidently. My focus when I was watching Ohio State was on defense and I typically just watched him. The last half of (2018) and this entire last year he was playing at a really fast, high level of football."
The 6-4, 320-pound Hamilton is projected to go somewhere between the third and fifth rounds by many mock drafts.
A defensive tackle, he is ranked 10th at his position by NFL.com and, according to his profile on the site, has "above-average athleticism" for an interior lineman.
Last fall in his only season as a full-time starter, Hamilton recorded 28 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 14 games as a redshirt senior and earned third-team all-Big Ten honors. More than 30 percent of his career tackles were for loss.
As a senior for Central in 2014, he had 67 tackles, including 23 for loss, and was named Division I district Defensive Player of the Year as the Tigers went 11-1.
"DaVon played 100-plus plays a game for us," Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "There wasn't anyone who could block him and there wasn't anyone he couldn't block. Size, speed and balance separated him from other players."