Tristan Bailey began his junior football season on Columbus North’s junior varsity.

Less than a year later, he’s committed to a Football Championship Subdivision school. Bailey announced earlier this week that he will continue his career at Illinois State.

“I really like the coaching staff and the way they coached me when I was at camp,” Bailey said. “They’ve kept in touch over the whole recruiting process and made it a pretty easy decision.”

Bailey also considered Eastern Michigan, Southern Illinois and Indiana State. He had visited Miami (Ohio) and Indiana University, but Illinois State was the only school to offer a scholarship.

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Illinois State, which made the offer about a month-and-a-half ago, plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Redbirds went 6-6 last year, with one of its wins coming against Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Northwestern.

“They have a really good past with wide receivers and coaching them to be as good of players as they are able to be,” Bailey said.

“I think with the skills that I bring to the table, Illinois State can turn me into a better football player.”

Bailey started his high school career at Columbus East before transferring at the semester break his freshman year. He played junior varsity at North as a sophomore and at the beginning of his junior year.

Injuries to starting wide receivers Jaylen Flemmons and Trey Vincent opened the door for Bailey to move up to varsity.

“He was a player on the rise for us as a junior,” North coach Tim Bless said. “He earned his way onto varsity. We had some injury in front of him, and he took advantage of the opportunity and then became a key varsity guy as the season went on.”

Bailey caught 25 passes for 309 yards, both of which ranked third on the team behind Flemmons and Vincent. Bailey’s six touchdown catches were second on the team to Flemmons’ eight.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Bailey hopes to double his number of touchdown catches this fall.

“He has all the physical tools it takes to be an impact wide receiver,” Bless said. “We’re still working on developing consistency, but we have big plans for Tristan.”

Tristan Bailey

Name: Tristan Bailey

School: Columbus North

Year: Will be a senior

Position: Wide receiver

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 185

Key stats: Caught 25 passes for 309 yards and six touchdowns as a junior

College choice: Illinois State

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5628.