Tyran Bailey is always told to play with a 'Why.'
That is, what makes him do what he does, and pushes himself.
He isn't short on inspiration.
Bailey, a sophomore running back at Aurora University and Oswego East graduate, lost his friend Lawrence Joshua earlier this year. A cousin, Darren Iverner, also passed away.
Both were on his mind Saturday.
"They are definitely part of my 'Why,'" Bailey said. "I was thinking about them all week. I wanted to dedicate my game to them."
He did, in spectacular fashion.
Bailey set an AU single-game rushing record with 295 yards in the Spartans' 41-24 win over Benedictine.
"I was definitely ready," Bailey said. "I prepared myself mentally for this game."
Bailey also gave credit where credit was due.
Bailey scored three touchdowns, breaking off 56 and 53-yard touchdowns in the second half.
"I have to give credit to the O-line, all the glory," Bailey said. "My biggest runs, I didn't even get touched. They made it happen. The coaches prepared us mentally and physically. And then of course our scout defense, they prepare us every day."
Bailey started at running back as a junior at Oswego East, but moved to defensive back and was a backup on offense when Ivory-Kelly Martin transferred to East in 2016.
AU coach Rick Ponx jumped at the opportunity to bring in a talented local player. Bailey tore the meniscus in his right knee the summer before freshman year, but returned to rush for 574 yards and two TDs as a freshman.
"I think some schools slept on him," Ponx said, "When he stepped in as a freshman our AD said he might be the best back in the league."
Bailey unknowingly tore his meniscus again, though, during his freshman season. He played through it and had surgery in April, but feels great now.
"I put in as much work as I could to be in the position to be as healthy as I could," Bailey said. "My physical therapist pushed me hard than I've ever been pushed. That's a huge reason that I am where I'm at now."
Bailey started the season behind all-conference running back Connor Olson on the depth chart. Olson hurt his hamstring, and Bailey has stepped right in.
He ran for 231 yards in a win over Rockford two weeks ago, and 123 yards and three TDs in a win over Wisconsin Lutheran.
Bailey said he's learned much playing behind Olson.
"I learned from him how to run hard," Bailey said. "That's what I lacked in high school. I was scared of getting hit. I saw him lay his body on the line in practice and in games."
Bailey, with 931 yards and seven TDs on the season, has a chance to go over 1,000 yards in conference play – in just seven games.
"He just works hard, he takes coaching, he doesn't make the same mistake and he trusts his offensive line," Ponx said. "His vision is what separates him. His vision, and his ability to make a cut. He sees things at the second level and he can control his body. He can put his foot on the ground and go vertical. That's what separates the good runners from the great runners."
AU, since an 0-4 start, has won four of its last five games. Bailey is a big reason why, and so is an offensive line finally healthy and intact in five of the last six games.
"Our coach always preaches about how to overcome adversity," Bailey said. "We were 0-4, but we knew we had the talent. We knew what we were capable of. It was a matter of putting the pieces together and executing in practice."