AC in the AM: 10 Questions With William Hayes

Posted Oct 25, 2017

For about six hours just about every Tuesday, Williams Hayes goes fishing on a charter boat captained by good friend Tuna Joe. It’s a relaxing time. The fishing is good, the company is ideal and occasionally William Hayes will shut his eyes, let that ocean breeze pound against his face, and just think about how lucky he is to have such a prominent role on the Miami Dolphins defense.

“There are so many athletes like me from High Point, North Carolina who are sitting on a couch thinking about a football career they could have had,” Hayes says. “But I’m the one living out a dream.”

After spending 15 minutes with Hayes, sitting on a sofa in the lobby of the Dolphins training facility, it quickly became apparent there is so much more to this veteran defensive end than his well-documented belief that mermaids exist and dinosaurs don’t. He is street smart. Father of four kids. Embraces his small town pedigree. Admits to his mistakes growing up, but wouldn’t change a thing.

It has all been a part of the journey that has led him to where he is today, clearly one of the Dolphins’ most impactful offseason acquisitions. He doesn’t play a whole lot of downs, what with a defensive line so deep and talented, but he makes the most of every moment, each game it seems coming up with a shake-your-head moment.

“He’s one of the most impressive players I’ve ever been around with his work ethic and the way he is in the building,” said coach Adam Gase. “I think when he talks, everybody listens.”

I certainly listened. Ten questions with William Hayes? Could have used five times that many to delve deep into the mind of this highly unusual and refreshingly candid man. We’ll gladly settle, though, for 10.

1. You’ve been around some pretty good defenses in your 10 seasons in this league. How good is this Dolphins defense?

WH: We have a chance to be special. From top to bottom, this is the best team I’ve ever been on and I don’t think it’s even close. We have the potential to be the best defense in this league and this defensive line has no weaknesses. To have a chance to play with these guys, it’s something I’ll never take for granted. I really couldn’t be in a much better situation. I’ve got a player’s coach in Adam Gase and I love that. He helps me be the player I want to be.

2. You have developed a reputation as one of this league’s top run-stoppers, which probably had a lot to do with the Dolphins trading for you. How did you get that reputation?

WH: I’ve been able to stop the run. It really isn’t very complicated. It’s man against man and who wants it more. You’re not going to find many players who want it more than I do. It’s a battle of wills. You can’t be backing down from that. Some players react to what an offensive lineman is doing. I want the offensive lineman to react to what I’m doing.

3. Tell us something about William Hayes that not many people know?

WH: I’m a family man. I have four beautiful kids. They are in Los Angeles now because everything happened so quickly with me getting traded to the Dolphins during the offseason, we decided it would be best to keep them there through this school year. When I sign on next year, they’ll move down here. I miss them every day. I just want them to be good citizens. I’m not worried about whether they’ll play sports or not. That will be up to them. My goal is to raise them to be good people.

4. What are some of your passions off the field?

WH: I love to fish. I mean absolutely love it. I go every Tuesday. Tuna Joe takes me out in his charter boat. I mostly fish for Mahi-mahi and shark. Since I’ve been here, I’ve already caught a big shark, about 250 pounds and had it stuffed. Being on the ocean gives me a chance to air out a little and reflect. Sometimes I’ll doze off until Tuna Joe tells me I have one on the line.

5. So South Florida couldn’t have been a better landing spot for William Hayes?

WH: It’s the perfect spot for me. I can fish all I want and I’m playing with a bunch of people who want to be great. It can’t get much better than this. There isn’t one bad person in this locker room. When I first got here, I met Jarvis Landry and remember saying to myself, ‘man, this dude is going to be like a prima donna.’ Man, was I wrong. He’s probably one of the nicest individuals I’ve ever met. It’s like that with the whole locker room, not one single bad dude.

6. This team has already had to overcome so many off-the-field distractions that might have rattled other teams. What is it about this team that gives it the ability to stay focused and move on?

WH: I don’t think we’ve had any distractions. A hurricane? Nah, that was just something that happened. You move on to the next week. It’s sad for a lot of people. The distractions are for the people who live an every day life and are trying to figure out how to survive with their house messed up because of the storm. My heart goes out for those people whose lives were disrupted. We’re thinking about how to win a football game and they’re thinking about where they’re going to live. That’s the real distraction.

7. How do you end up playing college ball at Winston-Salem State? Not exactly a football powerhouse.

WH: Truthful? I had bad grades in high school in High Point, North Carolina. I just didn’t take school seriously enough. My life was a dead road back then. I didn’t understand the significance of not doing the right thing in high school. For me, I just wanted to have fun. People ask me if I had another shot at high school, if I would do things differently, and I tell them no because it helped me become the man I am today. When I had the opportunity to go to college, even at a small school like Winston-Salem, I didn’t take it for granted. I worked hard. I gave up the chance of playing at a Division I school because of bad grades, but it made me hungrier. At least somebody took a chance on me and for that I’m grateful.

8. You are 32 years. Did you ever think you’d play this game this long?

WH: It’s funny, I was talking to Mike Pouncey the other day. He was telling me his ultimate goal was to play 10 years in this league. My goal was just to make it. I think I wanted four years so I could get my pension. But I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make it that long. I was so raw out of college. I had a lot of learning to do. I struggled my first few years. Once I really applied myself, it got easier. But no, I never thought I’d be here this long.

9. So it’s the offseason and you can eat anything you want. What do you go for?

WH: Ah, there are so many things. My ladies’ aunt makes the best chitlins. I know it sounds disgusting, but I’m just missing something if I don’t have those chitlins once in a while. My sister’s banana pudding is something else I can’t resist. So good. And, oh yeah, fried pork chops. Can eat those forever. As you can see, there’s a lot I like to eat.

10. Finally, when you are doing playing, how do you want to be remembered?

WH: Just as a great teammate. When I took on this game, I didn’t care about being another Ray Lewis or a Reggie White or a Bruce Smith. I didn’t want to be one of the greats. I wanted to be my own man, somebody who cared for those around him and who loved to compete. Hey’ I’m living a dream. Every time I step on the field I think about how fortunate I am because, in reality, the best football player from High Point, North Carolina probably never got the chance I’m getting. I mean I started one year in high school. How lucky am I? It’s something I’ll never take for granted.

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