Hayes, former WSSU star, had career year for St. Louis
John Dell/Winston-Salem Journal
Hayes, a former Winston-Salem State star who lives in his native High Point in the offseason, signed a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Rams before the 2012 season. Then, he went out and had the best of his five NFL seasons.
“I’m pretty sure they want me back,” Hayes said by telephone earlier this week. “We’ve got a good thing going there in St. Louis, and our team is definitely on the rise.”
Hayes, 27, followed Coach Jeff Fisher to the Rams after spending four seasons with Fisher and the Tennessee Titans. He said that his relationship with Fisher is very good and that his season with the Rams, who missed the playoffs at 7-8-1, was “a lot of fun.”
Hayes was one of the team’s most versatile linemen. He started slowly because of lingering shoulder issue but was up to speed by midseason.
“Will's been playing pretty well the last four to six weeks,” Fisher said after a 16-13 victory against San Francisco in early December. “This was clearly Will's best game. We moved him around. He played left end, played a little bit of right end, played inside tackle. He had a sack last weekend at nose, so he's been flexible for us.”
Hayes had a career-best 35 tackles and seven sacks, the third most on the team. He had four tackles and two sacks in a 28-13 victory against Tampa Bay last Sunday.
“I’d love to stay in St. Louis,” said Hayes, who is again a free agent. “I just have to let my agent do his job, but I realize, at the end of the day, it’s a business. But I think St. Louis would be the ideal spot for me, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Hayes, who starred for WSSU from 2004 to 2007, saw his stock soar after an outstanding pro-day performance at Wake Forest in the spring of 2008, and the Titans drafted him in the fourth round.
Hayes, who opened a gym in Greensboro last year, plans on working out there often in the offseason and also expects to be changing a lot of diapers. He and his fiancée, Candace Humphrey, have a 22-month-old boy and a 4-month-old girl.
“It’s all about diapers at this point,” Hayes joked. “But I’m really looking forward to the offseason and spending a lot of time with my family.”
Hayes, as he does every offseason, also plans to visit local high schools to talk to students, he’s very active at his church in High Point, and he has a program called "Right Track" that helps first-time offenders get back on track.
Hayes was recognized by the Rams during Thanksgiving week for his contribution in helping distribute food to needy families in the St. Louis area. He also encouraged fellow defensive linemen to raise money for the Urban League, and the team contributed $34,000.
Hayes also spent time following WSSU’s run to the NCAA Division II championship game.
“Eugene Sims, who is a defensive end, went to West Texas (A&M), so I was able to talk a bunch of junk to him after Winston won (in the semifinals),” Hayes said. “It was all in good fun, but it was great to see Winston do that well this season.”
Hayes said he is looking forward to a quiet, surgery-free offseason. He had shoulder surgery last offseason.
“I’ve got the normal bumps and bruises from a long season, but I’m feeling very good,” Hayes said.
Hayes said he finds it hard to believe that he has been in the NFL for five seasons.
“I sometimes forget I’m an NFL player,” he said. “I was watching the press conference about Ray Lewis retiring, and I was just like a fan because he is such a great player. I know I’m in the NFL, but I just live a normal life.”