Daelin Hayes played a major role in Notre Dame’s magical run in 2020, finishing his senior season with 17 total tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Now, he’s out to prove that his skillset will translate well to the NFL.
A torn labrum tried to hold Hayes down back in 2019, but he shrugged that injury off and proved that he can play a full season in 2020. He then showed what he can do against the best prospects in the country by having an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in late January.
Hayes has all the physical tools to make an impact as an NFL rookie. He has great burst off the snap, solid footwork, and can really bend around the corner while rushing the passer. Those are all traits that defensive ends need to have at the next level.
While there is still work left to be done, Hayes sat down with The Spun to discuss his career at Notre Dame, path to the NFL Draft, and much more.
The Final Chapter ☘️ pic.twitter.com/8x6fCwKWu0
— Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_IX) February 5, 2021
The Spun: You missed time in 2019, but then came back and show out in your final season. What was the mindset for your fifth year?
Daelin Hayes: Really it was about building off the momentum I had from 2019. I was playing well up until that point, but I hurt my shoulder, so that hurt the momentum a little bit. But I felt comfortable with my shoulder and wanted to get back to work.
The Spun: What was your favorite moment from this past season ?
DH: Come on, you already know [laughing]. When we beat Clemson at home. That will probably be my No. 1 memory at Notre Dame.
— Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_IX) February 26, 2021
The Spun: Were you shocked that fans stormed the field?
DH: Absolutely. Actually, you know what, yes and no. Coach Kelly told us that Thursday before the game ‘Listen, when we kick Clemson’s ass, fans are going to storm the field so get in the locker room as possible.’ We weren’t even thinking about that – we were just trying to win. The whole theme of that year had been rally, so having that community be part of it made sense. It’s the biggest win that Notre Dame had at home in decades. For them to be able to share it, albeit all of our fans weren’t there, we were excited to have them be a part of it. It’s all about having a community, especially on a historical night.
The Spun: What was it like playing for Brian Kelly?
DH: It was cool, man. I felt extremely prepared as I transitioned into being a professional because that’s the culture that Coach Kelly built at Notre Dame. Day in and day out, you need to be locked in on the details. As you transition to the pros, you realize you’ve been groomed to be a pro since you got to the university at 18 years old. It’s been awesome playing for Coach Kelly. He gave me an excellent foundation to make that transition to the professional world.
The Spun: Did going up against Ian Book and the offense in practice help for your games on Saturdays?
DH: It helped a lot. Just our offensive line, even less than the quarterback, it’s more so about going up against the best o-line in the country. So when we faced a Trevor Lawrence or Sam Howell, the guys protecting them had a long day because we compete against the best day in and day out.
— Shark Sports Management (@ManagementShark) February 2, 2021
The Spun: You were at the Senior Bowl down in Mobile. How was the transition from Notre Dame to the Senior Bowl?
DH: That was funny because I remember talking to Ade [Ogundeji] after we left the field and saying ‘Man, I felt like our practices were harder compared to the week we had at the Senior Bowl.’ You needed to have your A game at practice at Notre Dame, or else you’ll get exposed. When we go down to Mobile and face the best guys, that’s just second nature. Like I said, we’ve been prepared to compete against the best so we have that killer mindset.
The Spun: What’s your go-to move as a pass rusher?
DH: Why do you want me to put that out there [laughing]? I’m just kidding. Pass rushing is like a chess game, it’s all about setting up moves and getting a feel of the guy you’re going against. It really depends on who you face. If you’re facing a guy who’s really athletic, your speed move might not be the go-to move. Or if you’re selling power all day, you might want to switch up and go speed. It really depends on your feel throughout the game.
The Spun: I was looking over your film and I saw you just dominate the Georgia Tech game. Do you remember that game, and if so, did you feel bad for the opposing quarterback?
DH: That kid was a freshman too, so that was tough. It was a good time, though. That was one of the few times we were able to do a pure four-down rush against them. We cut our edge guys loose as opposed to zone blitzes. It was cool and I was able to have success. Do I feel bad for the quarterback though? No [laughing].
Standup 3-Tech Spin: Daelin Hayes pic.twitter.com/kjpypQUfk4
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 28, 2021
The Spun: Notre Dame is losing a lot of firepower on defense. Who would say will be the top playmaker on defense for the Fighting Irish?
DH: 100 percent. Look out for Jayson Ademilola, Isaiah Foskey, and Marist Liufau. Those are a couple of guys to watch. Oh and Bo Bauer for sure. If you don’t know about Bo, he’s going to have a great year and I’m excited to watch him.
The Spun: How has the draft process been for you?
DH: It’s been cool. It’s really about staying focused on this process. You just turn into a track athlete once the Senior Bowl is over. Once we got out of that phase, you get ready for your 40-yard dash and three cone drill preparation. People have told me that you get out of this process what you put into it, especially this year because the Combine has been canceled. Our pro day isn’t until March 31. In a normal year I’d have eight weeks of speed training, but instead I get 12 [weeks]. So it could seem like a drag, but it’s been cool. I’m talking to NFL teams and having meetings. I just can’t wait until I get my pro day over with so I can get back to training strictly for football.
— Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_IX) March 3, 2021
The Spun: Let’s move over to your pro day. What are you looking to show scouts there?
DH: First thing I want to show is that my shoulder is good. I’m pretty confident in what my bench press number will be. People have asked me if I’m even going to do it, which I find kinda funny. I’m excited to put that number on display. I’m also excited to get my 40-yard dash done and get a number down. It’s really about proving that I’m fast and strong.
The Spun: What is your first NFL sack celebration going to be?
DH: I don’t know, to be honest. I might have to borrow ‘The Swipe.’ I hit it after Clemson and that jawn was live. Everyone gets fired up when I do it.
The Spun: What is an NFL team getting in Daelin Hayes?
DH: You’re getting a guy who is going to represent the organization to the best of his ability, on and off the field. I’ll continue to pay it forward in my community. And then on the field, you’re getting a baller and a guy who’s going to light it up on the field. That’s the legacy I left at Notre Dame and that’s what I want to build on wherever I end up.
"You don’t have to take him out on any down and you can use him in multiple facets."
— 247Sports (@247Sports) February 3, 2021
Hayes is currently projected to be a Day 3 selection in the upcoming draft. He’s drawing a lot of interest leading up to his pro day, which bodes well for stock.
We’ll find out on March 31 if Hayes can accomplish his pro day goals. A strong outing on that date might just be what he needs to hear his name called on Day 2 of the draft.
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