Big prospects for Bailey

Sweetwater High Wildcat offensive lineman Bailey Byrum (center) was named MVP at a recent prestigious National Playmakers Academy camp in Nashville. He is pictured with former Vols and now NFL linemen James Stone (left) and Antonio “Tiny” Richardson (right). Byrum has scholarship offers from numerous colleges.

SWEETWATER — Sweetwater High School rising senior offensive lineman Bailey Byrum was recently named the Most Valuable Player at the National Playmakers Academy (NPA) spring camp in Nashville and is attracting the attention of top football and top academic schools.

The camp for more than 100 lineman was held at Tennessee State University.

Academy staff members Buck Fitzgerald, a former University of Tennessee Vol, Maurice Fitzgerald, Cedrick Wilson along with NFL standout lineman James Stone and Antonio “Tiny” Richardson instructed at the camp.

National Playmakers Academy’s purpose is to help aspiring student athletes attain college football scholarships and opportunities.

Byrum, who has played guard, some tackle and defensive line for the Wildcats, has been a coveted college prospect for some time. He stands at least 6-foot-7 and weighs 315 pounds.

Often times, high school rosters list players much bigger than they really are, but Byrum’s size is legitimate. He has the length colleges desire in top offensive linemen.

“Bailey is an extremely long kid,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s what you are looking for in an exterior offensive lineman.”

According to Fitzgerald, Byrum towered over the 6-foot-6 Richardson, whose size has been verified at the NFL Combine before he was drafted and Byrum may still be growing.

In addition to Byrum’s length, Fitzgerald was impressed with his footwork and athleticism during the camp. Not only is Byrum able to bang inside with anyone, but he especially excelled at handling speed rushers on the outside.

“Bailey dominated all day at the tackle position in one-on-one drills versus edge rushers,” Fitzgerald told

Alongside his great physical talent, Fitzgerald noted Byrum has the intelligence to learn any scheme. Byrum is one of the top students at SHS with a 4.3 grade point average. He has already made a 27 on his ACT test.

Byrum’s grades and work ethic has grabbed the attention of many of the top academic schools in the nation who want him to come play football and study at their university, including Ivy League schools. Getting a great education is important to Byrum.

“The academics at a school are just as important to me as the ability to play at the next level,” Byrum said.

At this point, Byrum is looking at studying engineering, pharmacy or in other areas of the medical field. His options are many with his high grades.

Fitzgerald also said Byrum has the character that coaches look for and will be a team leader. He said coaches want to be able to sleep at night knowing their players will stay out of trouble.

Byrum is the son of Eddie and Laura Byrum.

And though Byrum has high character and is a team and school leader, Fitzgerald said that does not mean the Sweetwater rising senior lineman is soft. One of the many things instructors and coaches noticed about Byrum at the camp and on film is that he has the tenacity to take on anybody and finish his blocks.

The list of schools interested in the SHS standout grows daily. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), UT Martin, Cornell (an Ivy League school), Davidson, Tusculum and Jacksonville State University have offered Byrum scholarships.

The UT Vols, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, MTSU, Tennessee Tech, Memphis, Rutgers, Wake Forest, Ohio State and ETSU have all expressed interest and the list is growing, as Purdue, Georgia Tech, William & Mary along with Ivy League schools Harvard, Brown University, and Yale have also all shown interest. Many of the schools have already sent recruiters to see Byrum during spring practice.

Byrum has worked hard on his conditioning at the improved SHS training facilities. He said he is appreciative of the support and help he has received from Wildcats coaches and is looking forward taking the field with his Sweetwater teammates this fall.

Byrum is the grandson of the late David Michael “Big Dog” Vestal, who graduated from McMinn County High School in 1955 where he was named as the first All-American football player at McMinn County High School and also named to the Wigwam Wisemen All-American team.  Vestal also received the Roy Lotspeich Trophy given annually to the most valuable player in East Tennessee.  He was the only player in McMinn history to ever receive the All-State, All-Southern and All-American teams awards in the same year. Vestal’s number 46 was the first retired jersey at McMinn County High School.  He then went on to play football at the University of Tennessee.

Numerous top athletes have used NPA. To learn more, visit the website

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