A lot of Irish fans have put the recruiting success of 2013 behind them, and have now started to focus on how the 2014 class is taking shape. The Irish have four hard commits right now for next year, and we were lucky enough to sit down with one of them. Jay Hayes, a 4-star defensive tackle out of Brooklyn, New York, was kind enough to speak with us, and give us some insight into his thoughts on the game he loves, how he prepares, and what he feels he can do at the next level.
Bob Kollars – At what age did you realize you had a talent to play the game?
Jay Hayes – I would have to say around the age of 10, and it wasn’t organized football, but just outside playing football with my friends. I realized I was always looking forward to playing football, even if it was just pick-up football on dirt or even gravel.
BK – When did other people start to notice?
JH – It was probably around the same age I guess, that other people started to take notice and make comments. It wasn’t like at that age though I had thoughts of anything else other than maybe playing high school ball. I didn’t play organized football any younger, because it was about the same time that my Father had died, and when he passed, my friend suggested that I finally start playing with the local little league team, to get my mind off of things. I remember going to my first practice, and I had jeans and my Dad’s basketball t-shirt on to practice in. The Coach asked me to run a lap, and so here I am running a lap at full speed and I came in last , but that was the start of organized football for me.
BK – What other sports did you play growing up besides football?
JH – I played a little basketball, but that’s really about it. When I was playing, just like every other kid, I thought I was Michael Jordan. Actually to this day, when I play, I now think I am Kobe, yeah I am Kobe.
BK – For people who are not familiar with you – in your words, what is the strongest aspect of your game?
JH – I would have to say, that just finding the ball, and making the tackle. Literally just finding the ball, and when my team needs a stop, I am there. I pride myself of running sideline to sideline and putting a nose on the ball. That’s really it, I just make sure that I always contribute to the defense and make sure we get a three and out.
BK – What part of your game do you feel you need to improve the most?
JH – The part of my game that I am working on the hardest to improve is pass rushing at a collegiate level. A lot of people have told me that the jump from high school to college is bigger than the jump from college to the NFL. Just utilizing the film that I have access to and seeing what works and maybe what didn’t work. I definitely had a chance to look at a lot of college film and maybe that is something a lot of people don’t know about me, is that I look at a ton of college film
at least 3 days a week. I will sit there with my coach, and we will watch full game films, and I will focus on the offensive line and see how they set up and react and try to figure out what move would be the best move to use in that exact situation.
BK - How hard was it for you to make a commitment to a school you had never even stepped foot on campus before?
JH – That’s a great question and what people have to understand, is that Coach Diaco is a very charismatic individual. He is very professional and there was just something that separated him for the rest of the coaches that I talked with. Him and coach Kelly are all about business, and I consider myself a business man, so the decision was easy.
BK – How important are academics along with athletic side of things
JH – It is very important. I want to make sure that after 4 years at Notre Dame, or after a career in the NFL, that I get to do something that I enjoy doing. I speak to a lot of recruits also, and a lot them don’t understand, so I explain to them what Notre Dame can offer. Notre Dame is one the most renowned institutions that there is. So for me to be able to graduate from Notre Dame with a degree and go into any field of work that I choose to, that really spoke to me. I am just blessed
and every day I am just glad that I chose Notre Dame and it’s just as exciting to know that I will be getting a first class education.
BK – What do you like to do, when you’re not concentrating on football?
JH – Man, that’s a really good question also. You know, I am always at the boys or girls basketball games at my school. I am always the loudest one too. I am out there cheering and distracting the other team, and it’s crazy and just a lot of fun. The boys basketball coach always comes to me and says “ Look, I need you out there getting the crowd fired up” and it’s crazy and almost feels like College Game Day. I like to support the other student athletes at my school, and just spend time with my family and hang out with my friends.
BK – What is the one statement that best sums you up, that you want fans to understand?
JH – If I could give one statement to fans that may not know a lot about me, it would have to be the seven words I live my life by – Never, never, never, never, never, ever quit!
In an age where Narcissism and egocentrism are acceptable qualities in young athletes, Jay Hayes would be considered a throw back. Full of appreciation, understanding, and humility, the young man out of Brooklyn, understands the opportunity that he has in front of him. While fans, coaches, and media talk often about the term “student-athlete” no longer being applicable in the world of college athletics, we have a strong feeling that Mr. Hayes may just change a few of those opinions.