Jay Hayes trying to stay focused even as teams avoid him

Jay Hayes said it's weird having teams avoiding him after years of best tested by opponents. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Jay Hayes said it’s weird having teams avoiding him after years of best tested by opponents. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Shortly after Poly Prep got done beating Fort Hamilton 35-6 last in Dyker Heights last Saturday, Notre Dame-commit Jay Hayes walked up to a couple of reporters shaking his head and just said, “It’s weird out there.”

What’s weird?

“It’s just weird out there,” he continued. “Teams have been running at me since my sophomore year trying to test me, but now they’re avoiding me. It’s just weird and something that I have to get used to.”

Teams avoiding avoiding a 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive tackle? No way. He’s probably just not used to it because the big, strong and athletic 6-foot-5, 270-pound kid got plenty of attention from not only teams testing him, but schools trying to recruit him. Before he settled on Notre Dame, Hayes had 53 offers from schools all around the country. And now that he’s committed and entering his senior year, nobody wants to go near him.

All throughout the game it was obvious as one of the city’s best players really wasn’t heavily involved in a blowout and, on most plays, had nothing to do with the game at all. He was out there, he was hustling, but Fort Hamilton took such painstaking measures to avoid him that he really wasn’t a huge factor.

It’s something that he and his coaches have noticed recently, rather than getting tested, he’s being avoided altogether. It’s something that, they say, Hayes has to work hard to keep his intensity level up all game to avoid getting lazy.

“That’s smart coaching, not running at him,” Poly Prep head coach Dino Mangiero said. “He’s going to have to stay patient and be ready. He has a lot to prove to me because this is his last year and he knows it. He wants to be a leader and he’s working hard to be a good leader.”

Part of being a leader is not taking even a single play off, which isn’t going to be an easy thing to do while opposing teams do their best to avoid him. The danger is that the one time they do take a run at him, he might not be ready. To his credit, Hayes full realizes this and is determined to work hard to keep pushing himself.

That’s just what happens when you are one of the best players in Brooklyn and all of New York City. It wouldn’t be hard to blame him if he did drop his intensity. He’s already got a college picked out and even his presence alone would be enough of a deterrent on defense. That’s just not his way though.

“You go into it knowing that they’re planning against you,” Hayes said. “It’s going to be like that all season, 30 away and then they hit me with five. I’m expecting it next game. I know that I can’t play down to that level. The only way to get better is to keep your focus and be ready at all times.”


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