Lincoln's Dehonta Hayes: A Gem being Overlooked?

They say that big-time players make big-time plays, in the big-time games.  That would make Lincoln (Tacoma) senior Dehonta Hayes big time.  He is a do-it-all athlete whose college position is most likely at safety.  Yet, at this stage of the recruiting process, Hayes seems to be a gem in the rough, being overlooked and flying under the radar.  Last time I checked, Hayes had no Pac 12 offers.  But, if you were at any Lincoln games this past season and paid close attention, you might have thought that Hayes stood out as the best football player on the field. And that includes state playoff games against powerhouses O’Dea and 3A state champion Eastside Catholic, with their multiple Division One talents and UW commits.  To see for yourself how Hayes stood out throughout the 2014 season, check out his Under The Radar (UTR) Sports Media spotlight at the link below.

Hayes’ ability might have also been overshadowed by Lincoln’s high-powered offense, led by QB Jordan Kitna who threw for 55 touchdowns, as Lincoln averaged 48 points per game.  Associated Press 3A first-team, all-state accolades went to WR Jayson Williams II, TE Devan Brady and UW commit, LB Jusstis Warren.  Lincoln’s blessing of team speed and multiple athletes and stars may have been somewhat of a curse for Hayes’ recruiting process.  Some of his greatest attributes are football savvy, ball hawking, intelligence and exploding through hits, none of which show up as a statistic in the box score.  And Hayes’ college position of safety, of course, does not draw the attention and make headlines like Kitna’s 9 passing touchdowns in one game or Williams 66 catches for 1,266 yards and 11 TD’s  in the regular season.

Hayes’ talents were not merely on display against weaker opponents in the 3A Narrows league, but also on big stages, against the state’s best teams, with some of the state’s best players.  Hayes has 4.4 speed and also is an “A” student.  The rest of what Hayes brings to the table are valuable skills that cannot be measured, but would be off the charts if there were a stat or chart for football intangibles.

Hayes does so many things well and was so valuable to the Abes that he did not do one, single thing full time and he was not always the focus of a game plan, given all of the talent that Lincoln had.  So, he did not rack up the glamorous statistics like his teammates did.  Hayes could have racked up much more yards and TD’s on just about any other team in the state, if he was not playing alongside the wealth of talent that Lincoln had.

The following are the types of things that Hayes did that would not stand out enough to be in the sports section on Saturday.  Hayes might have a perfectly-timed, hard hit on a receiver, which intimidates and frustrates the opposition, or an open-field tackle on a 4th down goal line stand changing the game’s entire momentum.  He might return an opening kickoff 45 yards and use his 4.4 speed to blow by would-be tacklers and knock the last tackler in the air and send him back a few yards, as happened in the Eastside Catholic game. (You can see this return in the EC v. Lincoln footage below.  The return was called back by a penalty, but the message was sent).  And the message was emphasized a few plays later on a 74-yard run by Hayes when he leaped over a sliding Anthony Masaniai (Air Force commit) and outran the rest of the Crusader defense (filled with D1 players).  Lincoln dominated that game through the middle of the second quarter, against the eventual state champs, going up 14 – 0. And, again, if you were there, you might have seen the impact that Hayes had on the game.  Moreover, you just might have called him the best football player on the field, even though EC’s all-everything UW commit Brandon Wellington was also there.  That day, Hayes also displayed some great ball-hawking, closing and tackling skill on defense and added a 32-yard receiving touchdown and another great kick return for 58 yards. You can view UTR’s highlights of this game, which was one of the best of the season in Washington State in 2014:

Hayes was also a big reason why Lincoln slowed down Eastside Catholic’s high-powered offense for over half of the game. And, of course, EC’s offense is loaded. Quarterback Harley Kirsch made Max Preps’ Sophomore All-American Team in 2013.  He threw to WR’s Matt Laris and Devon Arbis-Jackson, who were first and second-team AP all-state respectively. Sophomore TE Hunter Bryant who played well against Bellevue in the 3A title game, may be all-state in his senior year. The offensive line is loaded with D1 talent.  And of course, Wellington, who had 110 yards rushing and three TD’s against Bellevue was in the backfield.

As a cameraman for UTR, I covered multiple games for Eastside Catholic, O’Dea and Lincoln in 2014.  So, I have seen some of the state’s top talent, first hand, over the course of the season. It goes without saying that the defenses of O’Dea and EC were stout and two of the state’s best in 2014, if not the very top two. O’Dea only gave up 5.8 points per game before losing 35 – 30 to Lincoln in the state playoffs.  Eastside Catholic surrendered only 12.3 ppg to in-state opponents (and many of those points were scored after EC pulled starters in blowouts). And these two teams are extremely well coached and very well prepared for games.  And at times, Hayes dominated on the field against these two mighty teams.

During the playoff games against the Irish and Crusaders, Hayes had several plays in which it took multiple defenders to tackle him.  His 5’11”, 190 pound frame is power-packed.  With each touch of the ball, he displays an intense refusal to go down without a fight. All-West-Coast Brandon Wellington was the only player that I saw make similarly big plays against O’Dea’s defense.  I saw very few teams make any big plays against EC’s stellar defense during the year (and we all know they shut down one of the greatest dynasties in the history of high school football when they dominated Bellevue in the 3A championship).  Yet, Hayes made play, after play, after play against both teams, not during the regular season, but in the playoffs, when the season was on the line.  Hayes is a gamer.  Here is the UTR highlight reel for the Lincoln v. O’Dea state playoff game:

The links above show the two most competitive 3A playoff games in 2014. It is actually too bad that the WIAA did not give EC, O’Dea and Lincoln their own brackets.  The links also show how

Hayes really can do it all.  On top of his great football savvy, he has great awareness as a DB and reaction quickness, as well as closing speed. He will maintain leverage, control and balance as he closes in on a player and then explodes into the player with his uncanny hitting ability.  If he happens to be momentarily off balance, he recovers and still plows through a ball carrier.  He rarely gets faked out, if ever.  He made open-field solo tackles on Myles Gaskin in the game posted directly above—I never saw anyone else do that in 2014.  There is no stat that covers open-field tackles against an all-state player. There is no stat for explosiveness into a tackle.  There is no stat for savvy and ground covered on a play. These are the intangibles that you might only be able to fully take in at the game. And their full impact may not even be captured all that well on film.

Since Hayes was not the only one to stand out in the O’Dea and EC games, the casual observer might have been more in awe of Jayson Williams II’s 9 catches for 104 yards against the Crusaders, or his 146 yards receiving against O’Dea, including a 41 yard TD and a 74 play that was all YAC (yards after catch).  But, Hayes consistently made plays in both games, on both sides of the ball.  Hayes also had his own 38 yard receiving TD against O’Dea, which had Gaskin (a 100-meter-dash state finalist) playing safety and an first-team AP All State DB in Mikel Owes.

Only all-state senior RB Myles Gaskin of O’Dea and All-West-Coast junior WR Isaiah Gilchrist of Bellevue made big plays against EC’s defense this year.  These two players were on UW’s radar long ago.  And Hayes had not just one, not just two, but MULTIPLE big-time offensive and kick returning plays against EC and O’Dea.  It seems that he should be more on the Pac-12 recruiting radar to me.

On the biggest stages, against these teams who are loaded with D1 talent, Dehonta Hayes  stood out, in a big way, on both sides of the ball.  But, no one may have noticed because Lincoln was never covered by Root Sports and they did not really get any mainstream broadcast media attention at all until the O’Dea game.

There were only a couple of players who made a big play or two against O’Dea and EC all year long. That makes it even more notable that Dehonta Hayes at times seemed dominant against the state champs EC and an O’Dea that was often ranked #2 in state in 2014.  I do not think it can be overemphasized what Hayes did against EC, since the Crusaders were giant slayers this year and even dominated Bellevue.  EC allowed only two long plays in the 3A title game, while shutting the Wolverines down and shocking many by holding Bellevue’s 38 ppg offense to only 13 in the championship.

The greatest measuring stick for a real big-time player is how he plays and performs in the big-time games against big-time talent.  That said, Dehonta Hayes measures up with some of the best D1 talent in the state and it seems that that he measures up to Pac 12 standards for talent.  He may be the best football player out of Lincoln High School since Lawyer Milloy.  He was on Tacoma News Tribune’s pre-season All-State team (including all classes), but again may have fell victim to too much talent on Lincoln’s team, which plays in a 3A Narrows League does not get the attention of teams like the Irish and Crusaders who were on display on Root Sports this past year.

Hayes seems to be a diamond in the rough who is getting overlooked, but warrants more attention from recruiters.


For more Under The Radar highlight videos, you can go to the UTR YouTube page by typing in “UTRHighlightVideos” in the YouTube search bar. Then click on the magnifying glass within UTR’s page (right above the video of the day, which starts automatically). Type in “WA” in that search bar and a list of all Washington high school footage for 2014 will be displayed for your choosing.