Champ Bailey is without a doubt one of the best cornerbacks to ever play the game of football. Bailey's value as a leader and voice in the locker room is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his NFL career.
He was drafted out of the University of Georgia in 1999, and has had countless honors since joining the NFL; from Pro Bowl appearances to All-Pro monikers, Bailey's had them all. Now, 15 years after he began his career as a Washington Redskin, Bailey will have a chance to cap off an amazing career the right way.
He even holds the record for most Pro Bowls earned by a corner (12), and was the youngest player to intercept three passes in a game at the spry age of 21. He also has an impressive 203 passes defended to go along with his 52 career interceptions, and is the Denver Broncos' fourth-ranked interception leader.
He's done just about all you can do as a corner in this league, but there is one thing that has eluded him his whole career—a Super Bowl ring.
While you could make a strong argument that he's a Hall of Fame player with or without a championship, winning a Super Bowl would make it an undeniable truth, and Super Bowl XLVIII may be his last chance to win it all and solidify his status as a Hall of Fame player.
What's ironic is that he might not even be starting in this game if it weren't for Denver's other corner, Chris Harris, tearing his ACL two weeks ago.
Bailey is far from the most talked about player in this game, and isn't even the most talked about corner—that honor belongs to Richard Sherman. That being said, even he thinks Champ deserves to be in the Hall of Fame (per ProFootballTalk):
I think he’s going to be a Hall of Famer once his career is done. He’s kind of laid out the base work to be a lockdown corner in this league. He did it for a long time, and he’s still doing it. For him to get to a Super Bowl I think is a great accomplishment for him, especially in 15 years in the game, man. That’s not easy to do. I think you’ve got to tip your hat off to him.
Sherman's not the only one who has praising words for Bailey. "He's got great cover skills, great ball skills, he's a tremendous athlete. He's a smart player," said Peyton Manning. "It's been great to practice against him the past two years—the receivers get better and the quarterback gets better."
Iron sharpens iron, just as one man sharpens another. As a future Hall of Famer himself, Manning's words definitely hold some weight, and him saying that he's become a better player because of Champ certainly means something.
When Denver takes on the Seattle Seahawks, Bailey could be matched up an any of their talented receivers. What will work in his favor, though, is that he's got a size advantage against all three of their top targets.
Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate and Percy Harvin are all sub-6' players under 200 pounds. Bailey is a solid 6'1" and a little under 200 pounds, but plays bigger than he actually is. He could mirror any of these guys come Sunday and hold a distinct advantage.
He may not be able to match their speed at all times, but his knack for getting to the ball in the air will be aided by his bigger frame, giving him an edge on the Seattle receivers.
While he should do well against the Seahawks' receivers, Bailey will make his loudest statements against Russell Wilson.
The second-year quarterback has struggled for the past month or so coming into this game, and will be under a lot of pressure from Jack Del Rio's front seven. Wilson will be in a rush to get the ball out to one of his receivers, and Bailey could take advantage of a panicky throw and turn it into a takeaway for Denver.
Bailey's experience in big games will help him to remain calm and play intelligently, which will only help his team more. As a leader on Denver's defense, Bailey's composure will affect how the rest of the secondary plays.
If Champ is cool, they'll be cool. If they're cool, then Denver will have a great chance at winning, further cementing Bailey's legacy.
Ever since he came into the league in 1999, Bailey has been nothing but effective, however, he wouldn't be the first talented corner without a ring to be snubbed by the Hall of Fame. Aeneas Williams, the former Arizona Cardinal and St. Louis Ram, had a similar career to Champ.
Williams was an eight time Pro Bowler with All-Pro selections to boot, yet he is still not in the Hall of Fame. He actually has better career stats than Bailey in some categories, but is also without a Super Bowl ring. There isn't a clear reason why he hasn't been selected yet, but you could assume that winning a championship would've surely helped his case.
It's become evident over the years that Super Bowls definitely mean something to Hall of Fame voters, although there are anomalies that make it in based on their extraordinary stats (i.e. Dan Marino).
His case as a Hall of Fame inductee would be greatly fortified if Denver does win on Sunday, but that doesn't mean he won't eventually be inducted if they do in fact lose. Bailey is one of the most talented corners to ever play the game, and a Super Bowl would be icing on the cake.