Haynos walks walk to shed walk-on label

September 21, 2006|by BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Convention isn't part of Joey Haynos' vocabulary.

The University of Maryland tight end isn't a "horse before the cart" kind of guy. He isn't afraid to do a little work and take a couple of chances to get ahead.

It's the kind of philosophy that has brought Haynos to where he is today. On the surface, he's the Terrapins' starting tight end. Underneath, he's so much more.

He's a walk-on turned scholarship athlete.

By convention, it's assumed most college athletes play in high school, catch a recruiter's eye and then receive a scholarship for signing a letter-of-intent to play at the school. All of those components were there for Haynos; they just came in a different order.


"I'm proud to be a walk-on," Haynos said. "There are a lot of tough guys who walk on to a football team and never make it."

Haynos made it by accepting a challenge, taking a crack of opportunity and running with it. His reward has been becoming the tight end who replaced NFL first-round draft pick Vernon Davis in the Maryland offense.

And, oh yeah, he was awarded a scholarship, too.

"It's a dream come true to be a scholarship player," Haynos said. "It doesn't feel any different. Around (Maryland's athletic department), they treat people the same. The difference is that I used to have to put down $350 for my books. Now I only have to write down a number."

Needless to say, Haynos' climb to the top of Maryland's football heap has been a blessing to his family's finances. Haynos has also been a godsend for the Terps while proving that he is good enough to play Division I football.

"He's really developed into a good football player," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's very athletic for a big kid of 6-foot-7. He has very good hands and has really made himself a very good blocker right now. I'm very pleased with Joey's development and I look forward to him getting better and better."

But it all started as a whim.

Haynos played football and basketball at Gonzaga High School. His size was perfect for basketball, but his heart was set on football. All he needed was the slightest amount of encouragement to chase his football dream.

"I got lucky," Haynos said. "They came out to see one of the good guys at Gonzaga and I happened to have a good game. I was told I was good enough to play, but I wouldn't get any money. I would have to walk on and get it."

Haynos showed some passing interest at a couple of scholarship offers to play basketball at smaller Division I schools , such as Campbell in North Carolina. The decision was easy, though.

"I wanted to stay close to home and play football," he said. "That was always my first love."

Haynos came to College Park and started to work. He watched Davis and how he worked to improve.

"Vernon was always able to make something out of nothing," Haynos said. "Not everyone is able to do that. He just had an incredible work ethic. A lot of what he was able to do was natural, but the difference is that he worked so hard. He deserves everything he gets."

Davis left Maryland early and became the San Francisco 49ers' first-round pick to become the highest-paid tight end in the NFL even before he played a down. Meanwhile, Haynos did the work he needed just to get on the field.

He spent time in the weight room, trying to build himself up physically so he would be ready when - and if - he ever got the call.

"I got stronger and faster and it helps me make some plays," Haynos said. "I'm trying to fill the voids that Vernon left."

Haynos isn't expected to match Davis' talent, but he has been becoming a favorite target for Maryland quarterback Sam Hollenbach. Haynos caught 12 passes in the Terps' first three games, including eight for 51 yards against West Virginia last week.

"Last year, I was told that if I had a good summer camp, I would get a scholarship," Haynos said. "I got myself on the two-deep chart and they called me in and put me on scholarship. They must have thought I had a good year because they kept me on it."

And that is about the only conventional thing about Haynos' journey - that he's happy with the feeling of being successful.

"(Getting the scholarship) makes me feel real good," he said. "I knew I could do it if I could get the strength. There were times I never thought I would ever see the field. I just kept pushing throughout it all and I'm glad I did."

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