Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Hayes Embracing Opportunity

September 13, 2017

In two games, Notre Dame defensive end Jay Hayes made it known he has arrived. The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder is third on the team with 12 tackles entering week three's road game at Boston College. 

Hayes and the rest of the defense feel new defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s changes on a daily basis, and they have had a positive impact thus far. 

“Just playing free and disciplined,” Hayes said of the advantages of Elko’s scheme. “Coach Elko harps on those things and knowing the situation. It’s about being free and confident. That’s basically how guys are playing, and guys are enjoying being confident.”  

The Brooklyn native arrived in South Bend as a defensive end, but some felt he could grow into an interior player. After playing all over the Irish defensive front, Hayes has settled into strongside end, and it has been a perfect fit. 

“The opportunity you get, you have to make the best of it and run with it,” Hayes said of playing strongside end. “My junior year, I got an opportunity to play, and I took advantage of it. That was just the position for me when the opportunity presented itself.”

The defensive line entered 2017 with question marks, but through two games, the Irish have answered the call. Hayes and his fellow defensive linemen have embraced the challenge of becoming an elite unit and holding each other accountable. 

“It starts with the defensive line unit,” stated Hayes. “It’s a brotherhood, and we keep it real with each other. We call people out when we're not playing physical. We are emphasizing playing physical, playing fast, playing confident and knowing what you’re doing. 

“It’s a positive energy flowing through the room.”  

The positive vibes aren’t just from Elko, as defensive line coach Mike Elston has made sure to change the environment on and off the field. 

“He’s great with the guys,” Hayes said of Elston. “He’s really made it a brotherhood. He’s added in a care factor. He has done so many things off the field with us to make us want to play for him. We really appreciate it. 

“He coaches us hard every day. He’s on us. He yells at us and does all types of stuff, but it’s all out of love. What we do reflects his coaching. He’s really changed the room around.”

Hayes continued.

“He’s got the guys together, legally,” laughed Hayes. “We go out to eat, and he’s always welcoming us to his house.” 

As Hayes looks to continue to build on a hot start, he is also looking forward to playing in front of his family. Hayes will have to wait as his family won’t be at Boston College this weekend, despite the game being close to home. 

“My mom and grandmother, I don’t think they really knew about the BC game,” said Hayes. “For some reason they are are going to Miami and I know BC is a shorter trip. I am kind of surprised they aren’t going to BC, but going to the Miami game. 

“They have only seen me play on TV this year. They haven’t gotten a chance to come to a game a yet. It’s all love and support from them all the time. They text me during halftime about seeing me. 

“I appreciate the love and support from my mom and grandma. I just smile because it means a lot to me because they played a huge role in growing up.”  

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