FRISCO, Texas - Every now and then, there is someone like University of Delaware defensive lineman Siddiq Haynes to make you believe that there is good in college football.
Haynes was honored Tuesday night at halftime of the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans as one of 22 members of the American Football Coaches Association “Good Works Team” for their community service.
Haynes was voted a captain on the team, which includes players at both the Division I-A and I-AA levels. UD coach K.C. Keeler called the honor “the Heisman Trophy of good deeds.”
Haynes’ work makes you forget about the coaches who chase the next big contract, like UConn coach Randy Edsall did barely 48 hours after the Huskies’ loss in the Fiesta Bowl, without telling his team.
And it makes you forget about the five Ohio State players who sold their Big Ten championship rings and other memorabilia, and received improper benefits. Then there’s the NCAA, which decided to delay their suspensions until next season so they could remain eligible for the Sugar Bowl.
Instead, there is Haynes, who talked Wednesday morning about how he and the other members of the “Good Works Team” spent about five hours in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Tuesday, cleaning up a handful of vacant lots that have remained virtually untouched since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in August 2005.
That included cleaning the backyard of an old, infirm woman. The lot was filled with overgrown weeds that hadn’t been touched in a few years.
Haynes said the experience meant much more to him than winning the award. You could also tell that it meant as much as playing in the I-AA national championship game.
“A lot of times they don’t get to clear the lots, so a lot of stuff was left that they couldn’t get to,” Haynes said. “It has come a long way from five years ago. There’s still a lot of work needs to be done. The actual area we were in had 20 feet of water where we were standing.
“I was just amazed at the destruction at something of that magnitude.”
Helping out is nothing new for Haynes, who started volunteer work at a retirement home in his hometown of Durham, N.C., as a ninth grader.
“I liked doing it, so I kept going back,” Haynes said.
He said UD football players are required to do 10 hours of community service a year.
Haynes has done well over 200 hours of community service, whether it was volunteering at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, or the Boys and Girls Club, or anyplace else where he could make a difference.
At halftime Tuesday, the public address announcer at the Sugar Bowl said this when he introduced the “Good Works Team” to the crowd of 74,000: “We salute all 22 members who have shown that it’s not just how well you perform on the field, but how you give back that exemplifies character.”
Haynes’ UD teammates, meanwhile, had gathered at their team hotel to watch. They saw Haynes and immediately started cheering.
Keeler texted him, and Haynes texted back: “Let’s win the national championship.”
Haynes got back to his hotel room after the game at about 1 a.m., packed, and slept for maybe an hour or so before catching a flight to Dallas so he could make it to the Hens’ morning practice.
Keeler said that’s typical of Haynes, both on the field as off.
Haynes arrived at UD as a walk-on four years ago weighing 330 pounds. He has since lost about 50 pounds, earned a scholarship and became a cog on UD’s defensive line.
“The story is so amazing because he walked on,” Keeler said. “And the story is so amazing because he made himself into a good player … He stayed with it because he was so committed to what he wanted to do.
“It’s so neat when stories like this work out.”
So it was hardly a surprise that when UD went to Christie Elementary in Frisco later on Wednesday that it was Haynes who spoke to the students, urging them to make the right choices and stay in school.
UD, and the NCAA, couldn’t have found a better ambassador.