Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 26, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 18 of 55 NOV. 26, 2018 19 BY TODD D. BURLAGE N otre Dame junior Daelin Hayes talked a lot last week about what it took to pull himself out of the "funk" he fell into to start this season. In what was expected to be a break- out beginning in 2018 for the two- year starting defensive end, Hayes in- stead seemed to regress. He recorded only five total tackles in the first six games, and in four of the contests he failed to make a single tackle. "Just keep going through it," Hayes said of trying to return to form under the great weight and worry from his lack of production. "Keep your prep- aration as consistent as possible. The storm will let up eventually." A "stinger" injury at the halfway point also sidelined him a spell. The coaches tried to keep Hayes' confidence up. His family did what it could. The Irish teammates offered unyielding support. But because Hayes has always been his own harshest critic, the internal burden was his to bear and beat alone. "In my mind, I have always had this cloud of expectation," Hayes ad- mitted. "If I play with that over my head, with that mental baggage, then it takes away from my game. That is something that I've had to overcome." Hayes is still working through his slump, but steady progression is showing with two tackles against Navy and then five against North- western before enjoying what he calls the best game of his season against Florida State with two tackles, a half sack, a fumble recovery and constant disruption of the Seminoles' offense. "It was a gradual thing for sure," Hayes said of his progress. Head coach Brian Kelly believes that Hayes' slow development to be- come the dominant player he was advertised to be out of high school — Hayes is the lone Rivals five-star recruit on the Irish roster — is fueled by the lofty and sometimes unrea- sonable pressure he puts on himself. Lifting those self-imposed expecta- tions, playing freely and simply stay- ing in the moment is the emphasis the Irish coaches routinely preach to Hayes, and Kelly believes the message is holding and the results are showing. "Daelin has settled into a really good spot," Kelly said, "where his focus is, 'Let me just be a really good football player and work on my craft,' and all that other stuff will take care of itself." Listed as a native of Belleville, Mich. — essentially the halfway point between Detroit and Ann Ar- bor — Hayes spent little time there during his high school years and al- most no time on the football field. As a high school sophomore in 2013, he suffered a left shoulder in- jury on the third play of his season and was done for the year. Hayes moved to California in 2014 and began his junior season at a high school in Ventura, but a custody bat- tle brought him back to Michigan after three games and his season was again cut short. Then, as a senior at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Hayes needed surgery after injuring his right shoul- der, again after only three games, put- ting an end to a rather nondescript and abbreviated high school career. "Just being young and having the game taken away three consecu- tive times, that hurt at first," Hayes recalled. "But I definitely think it helped me in maturing, understand- ing everything and not taking the game for granted." Three high schools, three seasons, only seven games — yet still a five- star ranking on his recruiting résumé? The 6-4, 245-pound prep linebacker was so physically gifted that even with his limited work in high school, he was still rated by Rivals as that unique fig- ure. (Fellow junior Tommy Kraemer received five stars from 247 Sports.) Rivals also listed Hayes the No. 1 prospect in Michigan, and the No. 7 outside linebacker and No. 31 overall player in the class of 2016. Hayes could've chosen about any college anywhere. He settled on USC very early during his recruitment. But what Hayes lost in playing time through those three high school years he gained in perspective. After being committed to USC for more than a year, his college choice criteria changed and he flipped to Notre Dame. "Football can be taken away at any time. Once I officially took football out of the equation, it seemed like a no-brainer," Hayes said of re-evalu- ating his recruitment requisites. "To make a decision based purely off of athletics is kind of foolish. Why not maximize every opportunity on and off the field that college presents?" The decision to attend Notre Dame, of which Hayes has no regrets, was driven in large part by his admira- tion of a special Irish player. Even while committed to rival USC, Hayes was never shy to openly celebrate former Irish All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith as his favor- ite college player. Smith's career at Notre Dame ended on Jan. 1, 2016, after he suffered a devastating knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl. Hayes' career at Notre Dame began three weeks later when he arrived on campus as an early enrollee while recovering from shoulder surgery. Hayes said he chose and wears Smith's No. 9 as his uniform number for inspiration and out of homage. "Jaylon was an example of what type of player I wanted to be when I got here," Hayes said. "It was an opportunity to recognize all of that." And even today, Hayes can still learn and apply all of the lessons of perseverance, dedication, assured- ness and confidence that Smith pro- vided when working through a knee injury that put his football career in doubt, but never broke his spirit. "Everybody has their own hurdles that they clear," Hayes said. "And that is something that I had to really go through to mature and be the best version of myself." ✦ FINDING HIS WAY Daelin Hayes Is Winning His Fight Against Opponents And Expectations Hayes — the lone Rivals five-star recruit on the Irish roster — contributed 24 total stops, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack while seeing action in nine of Notre Dame's first 10 games. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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