Poly Prep defensive tackle Jay Hayes avoided the ice, rain, and cold that accompanied National Signing Day in Brooklyn when he officially signed to play for Notre Dame last Wednesday.
He did it at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. He was down in Texas preparing to compete for the Under-19 National Team to play against Team Canada in the International Bowl on Feb. 7.
Hayes couldn’t have asked for a bigger thrill after growing up a Cowboys fan.
“I was in complete awe when you look at the stadium because of just its size,” Hayes said. “You see all the hall of famers and the retired jersey. I can’t even put it into words. You become a little nervous when you sign.”
Big and unconventional fit the larger than life Hayes. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound senior always has a smile on his face, is jovial, and can be a playful instigator. He would constantly boast during the season that Poly was better than its Brooklyn counterparts Lincoln and Erasmus Hall. This is the also same Hayes that tried to play an April Fools prank on Notre Dame fans by saying he had decommitted.
“I didn’t recover from that yet,” Hayes joked.
He does feel he’s earned Irish fans’ respect by being loyal to the school for 15 months. Hayes verbally committed early in his junior year without visiting Notre Dame. He never wavered despite other schools still having interest and the allure of visiting other colleges when fellow recruits talked about their experiences on their trips.
“I feel like Notre Dame fans appreciate the guys who committed real early and who stuck it out,” Hayes said.
They should. The way Hayes has handled himself is certainly commendable. The Irish are not only getting a fine football player, but an even better young man.
Hayes said he had trouble sleeping before signing day. He realized just how long he has waited to take part in it. There was also the realization of ‘Wow this is it?’ ”
His anxiety quickly subsided as he put pen to paper at AT&T Stadium with his mother and grandmother in attendance.
“After I signed and I heard the round of applause, then I saw many different people smile, then I was like, ‘Ok,’ ” Hayes said. “I’m staring to feel comfortable.”
Just like he always is.