Hayes is worst-kept secret in UH backfield
Senior running back Michael Hayes knows how to make a dramatic entrance.
In the 2010 season opener against Texas State he caught a pass out of the backfield, broke a tackle and weaved his way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown. It was the Cougars’ third play from scrimmage en route to a 40-point victory.
“It was a great feeling to have an impact on the team that fast,” Hayes said. “Just to see how the crowd got into it and how Bryce (Beall) was. He came and was the first person to celebrate with me.”
Hayes is one of three options at running back for UH, but he is the hybrid of the group. Senior running back Bryce Beall is a hard runner, and sophomore Charles Sims is faster and will be used as a receiver.
Hayes’s skill set is a mixture of both.
“I’d just rather have the ball in my hands,” Hayes said. “I can run in between the tackles, outside the tackles or down the field. It doesn’t matter.”
He transferred from Blinn Junior College in Brenham and intended to play at South Florida. Days before training camp opened, he was told the program no longer need him.
He opted to attend UH, which is less than an hour away from his hometown of East Bernard.
His decision was a sigh of relief for the coaching staff. When Sims was ruled ineligible in 2010, head coach Kevin Sumlin described the backfield situation as “Oh no,” and Beall was slated to shoulder the reps.
Hayes was accepted to UH and started practicing 26 days before the first game.
Co-offensive coordinator Jason Phillips referred to him as “the secret weapon” before he had even worn a UH uniform.
Hayes shined sharing snaps with Beall, producing nearly 1,000 yards of total offense and scoring 10 touchdowns in 2010. His contributions make him one of the Cougars’ worst-kept secrets entering this season.
“Mike definitely brought a spark to the team last year,” running backs coach Clarence McKinney said. “He’s a powerful, explosive runner. He gave us an alternative to Bryce and gave him a break every now and then. When he was out there he did great things for us.”
Hayes played his first two seasons at Blinn which plays in the National Junior College Athletic Association. During his sophomore season, Hayes played alongside Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton before he transferred to Auburn.
Hayes and Newton helped lead the Buccaneers to an 11-1 season and a win in the NJCAA Championship in 2009. Competing at a high level forged a bond between the two, and they still keep in touch.
“We were best friends down there,” Hayes said. “He came and visited with me this spring and talked to me. We speak on a weekly basis. We keep a close relationship to see how each other is doing, and push each other to be better every day.”
After Blinn, Newton led the Auburn Tigers to a perfect 14-0 record and the NCAA championship. He was then selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. Hayes said playing with an athlete of Newton’s prowess elevated his game.
“Working with him made me better,” Hayes said. “I’ve never seen a guy that works from Monday through Sunday, everyday. He doesn’t party, he doesn’t do anything. He’s just on the field throwing routes or he’s in his room watching film. It was great to see a person like him and how focused he was.”
Upon arrival Hayes was reserved about expressing himself to teammates. With a year of experience in the program, Hayes is not shying away from being vocal in his final season.
“When I first came here it was more of me being quiet, getting to know the plays and doing the right thing,” Hayes said. “Now it’s me knowing the offense, and knowing my teammates. I’m more comfortable around people and more vocal at practice.”