Tavis Bailey loves to throw things. He’s even willing to pay to do it.
He proved as much by giving up a full-ride football scholarship at Lenoir-Rhyne University to throw things at Tennessee.
Bailey, a sophomore, will be throwing the discus and shot this weekend at the Sea Ray Relays at UT’s Tom Black Track.
And he’s happy to pay for the privilege to do so.
“I’d rather pay for a great experience in college,’’ Bailey said. “I could have went to school at Lenoir-Rhyne for four years and come out with no expenses, but I just didn’t enjoy it.
“I probably would have had some cool stories to tell, but I wouldn’t enjoy it.’’
Bailey will be defending his Sea Ray championship in the discus and hoping for the best in the shot put.
He signed to play on the offensive line for Lenior-Rhyne out of high school in Kannapolis, N.C., because it was the only way to get a free college education.
He loved the discus, but track scholarships are sliced up into partial packages. A full ride is rare.
So in the fall of 2010, he reported to Lenior-Rhyne and donned shoulder pads.
“It didn’t seem like it could be that bad,’’ he said.
It was. He had lost his heart for football. So he quit and started looking for track schools. His parents weren’t thrilled.
Bailey had won the AAU Junior Olympics national discus title after his senior year of high school, so he wasn’t unknown in
track circles. A contact pointed Bailey to Tennessee and throws coach John Frazier.
UT made Bailey feel wanted and he jumped at the chance to accept a partial scholarship.
His freshman year went well enough and his sophomore season is off to a fast start.
There will be student loans to repay, but he’s happy with his decision.
“I knew if I came to school here the experience would pay for itself,’’ he said.
“The cost I have to pay outside my (partial) scholarship is outweighed by the benefits of traveling and everything that is going on here.’’
Bailey worked hard last summer on core fundamentals. He posted a big PR indoors in the shot put and opened the outdoor season with a whopping improvement in his discus PR to 195 feet.
“The biggest thing,’’ said Frazier, “is he’s learned how to use his lower body. He’s a really strong kid who had a 300-pound snatch but he didn’t know how to apply that to his throw.’’
Bailey’s goal is to break the school discus record of 202 feet before the season is over.
“I’m pumped for this weekend,’’ he said. “Not having to travel, throwing at home.’’
The meet is condensed from past years. It begins today at 4 p.m. with men’s and women’s hammer throws as the only events.
Friday and Saturday offer full slates of competition, but in streamlined, more spectator-friendly form.
“We’re trying to make it efficient,’’ said J.J. Clark, UT’s director of track and field, “where it gets done everything the coaches want to get done.
“But at the same time, we want spectators to be able to come and watch.’’
Admission is free.