Tomorrow Pro Football Hall of Famer, Mike Haynes will have a special ceremony at his high school in Los Angeles. John Marshall High School will be presenting Haynes with a plaque, as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate’s “Hometown Hall of Famer” program. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate started this program last year and are planning on continuing it for years to come. Before his plaque dedication I had a chance to speak with Mike Haynes.
Q. How does it feel to be recognized and celebrated by Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in your hometown of Los Angeles?
A. In a word “Awesome.”
Q. Did you ever think that it would be such a big deal for you to come back to your high school for such an event?
A. Actually I felt it already had happened. You know when I joined the Raiders when they were playing in Los Angeles, for me it was coming home. And playing in the Superbowl that year it was a great feeling. But that was a long time ago in 1983. I am so honored to have a new birth, what you might say. Going back and having that feeling again, is really exciting.
Q. After high school you attended Arizona State, what were your reasons for choosing Arizona State.
A. They were an exciting football program. Just going there and being in that atmosphere, it was a great place to go to school. I can’t say I was so focused on education, that I really knew what I was going to major in. I took a liberal arts major and was really glad I was able to get a college education. The excitement of the football program was key.
Q. At that point in time were there any players that you modeled your game after, like a “Night Train” Lane or someone of that ilk?
A. Not then, to be honest. I grew up in Los Angeles so I watched the Rams players for the most part, but I didn’t think I was good enough to make it to the pro football league. I was just happy enough to have an opportunity to play college football.
Q. You have a very good college career and you get drafted by Patriots fifth overall and you help turn a bad team around into an 11-3 division winner. How great was it to walk in and be successful from the start?
A. well it was really exciting. I think the main reason why, was that my senior season in high school we didn’t win a game. Then I went to Arizona State and it was all winning. The worst year was my junior year when we were 7-5. But we followed that up in my senior year with a 12-0 season and so I was really used to winning and expected to win. I definitely did not want to have any seasons like my senior year in high school.
So going to the Patriots and understanding they only had three wins the previous season, but talking to the players they felt they were hurt by injuries. They felt that they had the makings of a great team. So I felt comfortable going there. We were exciting in practice, I’ve never been around so many great athletes before.
When we started that season we lost our first game to the Baltimore Colts. And you you can see the guys starting to hang their head a little bit, but I think because my background and Tim Fox’ background, who played at Ohio State. We weren’t used to losing. So we were starting on a defense, and I want to make it clear that defense is what wins football games. We knew how to win so if it was up to us we were going to do our part to make sure our team wins the game.
Q. During that season, you guys beat the 13-1 Oakland Raiders who you would go on to face in the playoffs. In that playoff game the Patriots were leading 21-10 before giving up two late scores, and a first down on a questionable penalty against Ray Hamilton. How devastating of a loss was that for you.
A. That was the first time I had seen so many players lose their composure. Back in those days the Raiders had the reputation for just doing whatever it takes to win, and guys were losing it with the officials and the fans. In a lot of ways it was embarrassing to be around. It was tough. We lost that game on that call. A lot of players felt that the officials were looking for a reason to call a penalty against us. Because the game was in Oakland they felt that Al Davis had paid for these penalties to be called. But that wasn’t the case we were just outplayed, and lost our cool. And couldn’t get it back together again.
Q. At that point in time who was the most difficult receiver for you to cover? A guy like Lynn Swann, Cliff Branch or Steve Largent?
A. Believe it or not, it was Nat Moore. But coverage is always related to the receiver and the quarterback. My first year in the league I faced Nat Moore and Bob Griese of the Dolphins and it was frustrating. It would change year to year. But that year I could be standing next to Moore and think I have him covered and Bob Griese would throw the ball in place where I would have no chance to get it and the only chance Moore had to get it would be to catch it with his outstretched arms or dive. Those two worked well together. When I figured out what they were doing, I realized that I had to play a little differently and a lot tougher. I couldn’t relax knowing I was right next to him.
Q. In 1983 you become a Raider. Explain how that came to be?
A. My contract came to an end and I played it out. By today’s standards I was a free agent. But back then my rights were still owned by the Patriots and I had to sign with them before getting traded. So I jumped on a plane and flew out to Los Angeles and thought about the chance to play football in front of the folks I grew up with and signed a contract with the Raiders. That contract was challenged by the league, but we ended up resolving it. Went to court, but settled out of court and the Raiders gave up two draft choices for me.
Q. Now you’re with the Raiders and playing opposite side of the field of Lester Hayes, who was almost as good of a player as yourself. How great was it to play with a peer of your caliber?
A. It was great. When I came to the Raiders, there was still a lot new things that I needed to learn. Lester kept a dossier of the receivers in the AFC West that he showed me. We would watch film and study together. I learned a lot from Lester, in my first couple years with the Raiders. I learned about man to man coverage and where the ball is and the receivers are on the field. The kind of routes receivers ran on certain parts of the field. It was a lot of fun playing with Lester.
Q. Do you think that Lester Hayes should be in the hall of fame?
A. No question. I would say Lester is one of the great corners of all time. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in I think the 1980 season. He set a record for interceptions that year, for a defensive back. He’s just a phenomenal athlete and hopefully his time will come.
Q. Now in 1983 you and the Raiders make the playoff and you just steamroll through and destroy the Redskins in the Superbowl. Did you feel like there was no chance you could lose?
A. It is an unbelievable feeling when you know how good you are and when you watch the film of the opposing team and you know if we just go out there and do our jobs we will win the game. The Redskins had played the Raiders earlier that season, before I had arrived. Marcus Allen and Cliff Branch also did not participate in that game as well. In the Superbowl all three of us played and made an impact on the game. Plus Lester and I played those receivers who were not used to bump and run coverage that we used. And I can remember Theismann having trouble waiting for them to come open, to throw to them.
Q. How was it playing for Coach Flores?
A. Awesome, awesome. I loved playing for Tom. He was a calm, cool, collected coach. He did a fantastic job of making us feel no stress, no pressure, in some of the most stressful situations. The key for coaching is to put players in stressful situations, where they do not feel any stress. Once we were playing one of the biggest games in 1983, the AFC Championship against Seattle, I was expecting a big speech the day before and all he said ” Well men another big game tomorrow, see you all in the hotel tonight at six.” And that was it.
Q. Thank you Mr. Haynes for your time and good luck tomorrow with your plaque dedication.
A. Thank you, and please get the word out for Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.