It’s been nearly a month since Dehonta Hayes buckled a chinstrap, concluding his senior season as Eastern Washington’s leading tackler and one of the best run-stopping safeties in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The hard-hitting graduate school student spends his evenings as an operations assistant at Reese Court, making a few extra bucks for various duties at men’s and women’s basketball games.
Coupled with his remaining football scholarship, it’s enough money to help pay his rent and other necessities.
But Hayes, who has a 3.8 grade-point average and once earned Student-Athlete of the Year distinction by EWU’s student newspaper, plans on punishing more ballcarriers in the future.
The NFL. The Canadian Football League. Maybe even the revamped XFL. He’ll accept whichever professional league wants his services, although he’s aiming for the NFL.
With several former EWU football players reaching the NFL in recent years, Hayes believes he also has skills worthy of the league.
“I think I play similar to (former Washington safety and current Arizona Cardinal) Budda Baker,” Hayes said. “We’re the same size (5-foot-10, 195 pounds). We play the run well. We’re a lot alike.”
Getting there isn’t cheap if you’re a potential under-the-radar gem without an agent to help fund NFL-level offseason training.
Hayes also doesn’t want to be beholden to an agent he can’t pay back if no professional teams sign him later this year.
“I don’t come from a lot of money, but I also don’t want to be in a lot of debt if I take a loan and things go south,” Hayes said.
So Hayes – an All-Big Sky Conference selection who totaled 115 tackles, five pass breakups and three interceptions in 2019 – is asking for help in the form of donation.
The EWU communications graduate started a GoFundMe page, “Road to the 2020 NFL draft,” to help offset the costs the private training he deems essential to get to the next level.
“The price of training facilities can be very pricey, and range from anywhere between $5,000 to $15,000 depending how prestigious they are,” the page reads. “We are asking all family, friends, supporters, and fans to donate anything they can to help Dehonta train at a facility that will give him the best chance of making his lifelong dream a reality.
“We know raising that much money may be a long shot, but every cent is one step closer. Thank you all!”
Hayes has a goal of reaching $7,500 in donations, which would help pay his training, dietary needs and visits with medical professionals.
Training starts in early January, and EWU’s annual pro day – when several NFL scouts come see the Eagles’ skills, athleticism and measurables – is in April.
As of Tuesday afternoon Hayes has totaled $265 from 11 donors.
“It’s tough right now because it’s Christmas and money is tight for many people,” Hayes said. “So I appreciate anything I can get. It means a lot.”
Hayes put on about 20 pounds of muscle last season, exhibiting the look of an outside linebacker from his safety spot.
Now he wants to improve his speed to a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, do 17 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and reach other weight-room goals that will make him more attractive to scouts.
Hayes said EWU assistant athletic performance coach T.J. Conley runs a private training business that’s helped elevate other former EWU student athletes to pro-level performance.
There are about four hours of training a day, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.
Hayes isn’t shy about asking for the donations because he believes donors will be helping a good cause.
“I am working toward a goal that will help me be financially sufficient for a long time,” Hayes said.
Hayes, a Tacoma native, endured two shoulder surgeries throughout his EWU career and sustained a gunshot wound last summer in Spokane.
“I’ve overcome a lot of adversity to get to this point,” he said.
According to witnesses in a police report, Hayes and teammate Keith Moore appeared to help break up a fight near a bar before two men reportedly retaliated moments later in a parking lot, shooting Hayes in the neck and Moore in the chest.
Both recovered enough to play this past season.
Blackburn, Cotton AP All-Americans
Eastern Washington sixth-year senior center Spencer Blackburn was named to the Associated Press All-American first team on Tuesday, a year after being named to the second team.
The Meridian, Washington, native and team captain guided an offensive line that helped EWU lead the nation in offense (524 yards per game).
Idaho junior receiver Jeff Cotton was a third-team selection, hauling in 88 passes for 1,141 yards and seven touchdowns.
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