Hall of Famer Mike Haynes to NFL Draft prospect Jeff Okudah: 'Ask questions'
April 15, 2020
Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Haynes had his “Welcome to the NFL” moment his first day on the job.
During his first NFL training camp session with the New England Patriots in 1976, wide receivers were lining up against cornerbacks, and they were running a drill from the 6-yard line. It was up to the defender to come up with a touchdown-saving play.
Haynes gave up a touchdown to every single wide receiver he went up against.
“We had some pretty talented wide receivers with the Patriots,” Haynes recalled. “Randy Vataha, Darryl Stingley, and Steve Burks. We had a bunch of guys, too. They all beat me, and it got me ready for the season. I had to bring my A-game all of the time. And whenever I relaxed, every time that I can think of when I relaxed in a game, it didn’t end up well for me.”
Cornerback Mike Haynes of the Los Angeles Raiders during an NFL football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. Haynes played for the Raiders from 1983-89. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Haynes, the No. 5 draft pick in the 1976 NFL Draft, came away with eight interceptions and an AFC-high 608 yards on 45 punt returns, which garnered NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. But it was that first day on the job that made him realize that he needed to approach every wide receiver the same way, or else he was going to be in trouble.
“I was so mad. I took off my helmet and threw it on the ground,” Haynes told Fox News on Wednesday. “We were going to get a water break, and head coach Chuck Fairbanks pulled me to the side and said, ‘Mike, this may be the greatest thing that ever happened to you.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, why is that?’ and he said, ‘This is the NFL. You’ve got to learn to go up against these guys and keep working.’
“And I did. And that was the best thing to ever happen to me,” Haynes added. “That’s one of the things I try to tell all defensive backs. When they ask me, ‘Who is the toughest guy you ever covered?’ And I say that you can’t look at it that way. You have to approach them all the same way. That they all have the ability to beat you, and burn you, and score a touchdown on you, and make you look bad. The moment you relax and think you don’t have to do that anymore, that’s when it happens.”
Haynes, listed at 6-foot-2, 192 pounds during his playing days with the Patriots and Raiders, sees a lot of himself in NFL Draft prospect Jeff Okudah. Okudah, an Ohio State product, is arguably the best cornerback in the upcoming draft and will most likely be a Top 5 draft pick.
Haynes’ only advice for the young prospect is to ask questions early and often.
“When you’re around greatness, ask questions,” Haynes said. “Don’t just say, ‘I saw Lester Hayes or I saw Mel Blount.’ It should be ‘I met Mel Blount, and I got a chance to ask him some questions, and here’s what he told me.’ Don’t waste those opportunities. That’s what I tell a lot of young people. It doesn’t happen very often. And it may never happen again. And you may never see a person again.
“But my advice is, you can learn from everybody,” Haynes added. “You can learn from great players, you can learn from not-so-great players. Listen to your coaches. You’re going to have some great coaches, some wonderful coaches, that you’ll learn a lot from. And then you’re going to have some coaches and think, ‘How did this guy get this job?’ And it’s going to happen. But being a lifelong learner is the best way to say it.”
Dan Canova is a Sports Reporter for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @DanCanova
Read the original article on Fox News.