Carlton Bailey wants to give something back to th community where he works and the community where he grew up.
For now, his is a gift of time and energy.
"I always told myself if I ever had the chance to play professional football, I didn't want to look back on my career and say I didn't give back to the community," said Bailey, a four-year veteran with the Buffalo Bills.
"Because that's what it's all about, giving back and trying to help someone else."
Bailey, a graduate of Baltimore's Woodlawn High, is a 27-year-old starting linebacker with a social conscience. He said he recently started a young leaders' program at a YMCA in Buffalo. And on a visit home last June, he said he went into the Baltimore City jails "to talk to some youth down there."
"I do other speaking engagements where I'm involved in the community," he said.
This week, in the midst of preparation for Sunday's AFC championship game against Denver, Bailey talked about his Baltimore roots and about how much he would like to play here.
"I want to have a chance to come home and play in Baltimore," he said. "Here, we don't even have a professional team, and it's killing me. Because I'd like to be remembered as a player from Baltimore, a first-class person on the field and off."
Bailey is deeply religious, but remembers a time when he was on the edge of trouble. He remembers hopping freight trains with buddies in his youth, taking a short ride out to Reisterstown Road Plaza and back home to Woodlawn. He remembers neighborhood football games and the inevitable fights for a player as big as Bailey, who has grown to 6 feet 3 and 235 pounds.
"It's not that I was some type of villain," he said, admitting that he had given in to peer pressure.
"I'm truly blessed that a lot of guys want to be where I am today. I can think about, in my own neighborhood, a lot of guys who started out with me and for some reason or another got sidetracked."
Bailey was All-County and All-Metro in football at Woodlawn, and was a Baltimore County hurdles champion his junior year, when he ran the 330-yard hurdles in 37.3 seconds. It was the fastest time ever for a Baltimore athlete. But in a rain-splashed state 4A championship at Towson State that year, he tripped over the next-to-last hurdle and fell. He was the top seed, but finished fifth in his section.
That setback, Woodlawn's narrow loss to Oxon Hill in a 1983 playoff football game, and last year's defeat in Super Bowl XXV are the "three most disappointing losses" of his athletic career.
This month, Bailey and the Bills have a chance to make amends for that 20-19 loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl.