DAVIE — William Hayes knows you’ve heard about his belief in mermaids and doubts about dinosaurs, but he’d like you to know he takes his job really seriously.
“Make a difference,” Hayes said. “Do something positive. Play at a high level.”
The thing about Hayes is that how well he plays the game of football has been somewhat overshadowed by a colorful personality that led to memorable appearances on Hard Knocks and Jimmy Kimmel.
It is not possible to write about Hayes without writing about his personality.
But that the Dolphins landed one of the most under-the-radar acquisitions of the off-season, a man who can play defensive end and defensive tackle and create pressure and stop the run, must not be overlooked here.
Who appears, in training camp and the preseason opener, to be helping the Dolphins get interior push and actually setting an effective edge against the run?
“William Hayes,” defensive line coach Terrell Williams, says, succinctly.
Hayes has been trying to stay a bit under the radar this preseason.
His objective is to create more disruption and more news on the field than off at the latest stop of his career.
And it’s working.
Assistant defensive line coach Andre Carter recently brought up Hayes in a conversation about Cameron Wake, Andre Branch and Ndamukong Suh’s impact on inexperienced defensive linemen Charles Harris and Davon Godchaux.
“I’ll tell you what,” Carter said after one recent practice. “One guy who really stands out is Will Hayes. He’s a true professional.”
Hayes had an excellent preseason debut, showing surprising speed and determination in pursuit of both running backs and quarterbacks.
“We wanted a guy that’s going to be aggressive versus the run and still rush the passer, and he has done a great job,” Gase told Kim Bokamper at halftime of the Falcons game.
Now that’s it’s been established that Hayes can play, and play at a really high level (Pro Football Focus graded Hayes nearly as highly as Suh and Wake in 2016) there is still time to discuss his personality.
Hayes likes to talk, on the field.
He admits he’s even done research into the lives of opponents for a competitive yapping advantage.
“It’s just anything I can get on you, I try to use and try to take you out of your game,” Hayes said.
Hayes also loves contact. As in he seeks violent contact out at all times.
“Hockey has the enforcer,” Carter said. “The goon. If there is one person that’s the goon it’s Will Hayes. Always talking trash, but I’ll you what he backs it up.”
Last season, Branch was Miami’s biggest defensive line talker.
But it turns out the Dolphins have two spark plugs on the line now.
“When we need a boost he’s our guy,” Carter said.
Hayes has taken on a mentoring role with the youngsters, working with them on techniques long after practice. And even offering investing advice.
Harris referred to Hayes as “the monk on our team. He knows a lot of things off the field.”
How much does Hayes have left?
“I’m not going to 40, right now I can tell you that,” Hayes said with a smile. “I ain’t got that Tom Brady in me. I’m 32. But I’ve got a lot of good years left in.”
And here’s some more good news about Hayes.
He loves Miami. He loves coach Adam Gase. He loves his teammates.
Hayes is trying not to make too many bold statements before the season even starts. But this is pretty bold: he’s already decided he’d like to finish his career as a Dolphin.
“I’m happy,” Hayes said. “I want to spend the rest of my little career I’ve got left out here. And just give them everything I’ve got. I’m enjoying myself and having fun. It’s a good situation.”
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