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Player of the Decade: Bailey Gaither is among Central Coats's greatest receivers
Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Bailey Gaither is among Central Coats's greatest receivers

Surely Bailey Gaither loves his hometown of Paso Robles, but it looks like San Jose is growing on him as well.

After all, Gaither is entering his sixth year with San Jose State's football program. Surely the Spartans are happy to have him back.

The former Bearcat receiver, who graduated from Paso Robles High School in 2015, has been granted another season of eligibility at SJSU as a graduate student after having a breakout season with the Spartans in 2019.

Gaither spent his first redshirt season with the Spartans in 2015 as a freshman. He then played in all 12 games in 2016 before playing in nine games with four starts in 2017. 

Then in 2018, Gaither's junior season only lasted four games after he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Gaither recovered and played in all 12 games in 2019, hauling in a career-high 52 passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns. 

After a redshirt freshman season and a 2018 season cut short due to injury, it wasn't clear if Gaither would have another season in San Jose.

Gaither has been granted a sixth year of eligibility. 

For his career with the Spartans, Gaither has 94 career catches for 1,502 yards (16 yards a catch) and 14 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound wideout has worked to put up respectable numbers while at San Jose State, but the statistics he accumulated at Paso Robles put him among the area's greatest receivers of all-time and certainly the top pass-catcher over the last decade.

Gaither is the 14th finalist for the Times' Player of the Decade award. He caught 167 passes for 3,277 yards in 36 varsity games with the Bearcats. He hauled in 41 touchdowns. The Bearcats won a CIF title in his senior season in 2014. 

In that campaign, Gaither averaged over 20 yards a catch, with 73 receptions for 1,480 yards and 20 touchdowns. As a junior, Gaither recorded 57 catches for 1,017 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a sophomore playing on varsity, Gaither had 37 grabs for 780 yards and eight scores. He averaged 91 yards in receptions per game for his high school career. 

Gaither greatest gift has always been speed, a tool he's used to race past opposing defenses or years. He was also occasionally employed as a running back in Rich Schimke's offense. He had 372 rushing yards on 55 carries as a senior. He finished his Paso career with 63 carries for 396 yards and six scores. 

He was named the 2014 CIF Northern Division Player of the Year in 2014 when he also had four kickoff returns for touchdowns to notch 30 touchdowns that season, including a fumble return for a touchdown that capped a come-from-behind win over Arroyo Grande. Also a standout baseball player, Gaither stole 90 bases in four seasons at Paso Robles and earned All-CIF honors in that sport as well.

Gaither earned his bachelor's degree majoring in communication studies.

Gaither joins the previous nominees: Mission Prep's Patrick Laird; Righetti grad Caleb Thomas; Arroyo Grande's Garrett Owens, Seth Jacobs and Bradley Mickey; Lompoc's Toa Taua, Ainuu Taua and Lavon Coleman; St. Joseph linebacker Fenton Will; Nipomo receiver Nick Kimball and quarterback Matt Albright; former Santa Maria quarterback Blake Truhitte and former Santa Ynez receiver Gabe Prendergast.

Once all 16 finalists have been announced, readers will have the opportunity to vote for Central Coast Player of the Decade. Readers will first vote among the eight Player of the Decade each from Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County. The list of nominees was compiled by the sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News, which polled area coaches.

Player of the Decade: We're looking for the top player of the last 10 seasons

The sports staff at the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News is looking for the top football player from Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County over the last 10 seasons of high school ball.

See who our nominees are thus far.

Senior Spotlight Series: Celebrating the area's top senior student-athletes

Our 'Senior Spotlight' series is aimed at highlighting senior student-athletes who have had their final year of high school disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The athletes featured here were their school's nominee for Athlete of the Year or Student Athlete of the Year for the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table's end-of-year banquet that has been canceled due to the outbreak.

Central Coast Classic Series: We look back at some the biggest games in the area's history

With a little extra time on our hands, we are taking a look into the past of prep sports on the Central Coast. Our sports staff has been going through our archives searching for photos and stories highlighting some of the most pivotal games area teams have played over the last two decades.

You can support the hard work of our local sports team by signing up for a News+ Membership

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