Coach on a mission to spread hope to Nigerian youth through football

December 15, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • Shoulder pads and other football equipment fill the back of Daryl Hayes' vehicle after his stop at South Hagerstown High School last Monday. Hayes was collectiong expired football gear for use at the Nigerian Institute of American Football, which was founded by Hayes as a missionary endeavor.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Daryl Hayes lives his life by the “Three Fs” principle. “In my life, it’s faith, family and football,” said the former head football coach at Saint James School.

Hayes would travel the world to stand by those beliefs. In fact, he already did.

The combination of faith, family and football created a calling for Hayes. In reverence of all three, he has founded the Nigerian Institute of American Football, a combined athletic and missionary endeavor geared toward bringing hope and opportunity through the sport in a volatile area in Africa.

“Those who know me know what I’m all about,” Hayes said. “They know where I will be on Saturday and where I’ll be on Sunday. This is two of (the Fs). There was a void there and I am trying to fill it.”

Hayes learned of the opportunity through his “extended” football family and became part of a team with former Saint James linebacker Mike Lelchitski and Ricardo Dickerson — a former University of Maryland and Oakland Raiders player — to introduce the game to Nigerian athletes.

“As a coach, you tend to bond with your players,” Hayes said. “Mike played for me at Saint James and he is like a son. He asked me if I could help. He has helped with basketball camps in Nigeria.”

He said Lelchitski thought football would be welcomed, too.

The entire project is a major undertaking. Not only is the goal to introduce American football to a new area, beginning with the basic fundamentals, but it is being done in a politically unstable area.

Hayes went to Nigeria in June and made contact with the president of Ahmadu Bello University, Africa’s largest university in Zaria. The meeting sparked an instant interest as the school’s president saw a need, which opened the door for Hayes to found the Nigerian Institute of American Football.

“There is a growing interest in the game,” said Hayes, who is now Shepherd University’s offensive line coach. “Right now, there are about 30 players in the NFL who are first- or second-generation Nigerian nationals. This area loves soccer, rugby and they have a penchant for playing aggressive contact sports. This is much bigger than I expected. I felt the call and so did Ricardo.”

Hayes is the featured lecturer and clinician for the institute. He has created the curriculum to teach players and coaches the aspects of the game. He introduced American football during his June trip.

“We started with three or four dozen players,” Hayes said. “By the end of the week, we had hundreds and we had to turn some of them away.”

Hayes will be returning to start a week of coaching clinics on Dec. 26. He said the country is learning and following the game on television and on the internet to get a feel for the game.

The goal of Hayes’ mission is to offer an opportunity to compete and some faith to help affect change in lives.

“I could take a handful of these kids at age 15 and could have a winning team,” Hayes said. “They are hungry to learn and to get out of their environment. Most of these athletes are big, strong and fast, but they don’t understand the nuances of the game. Right now, they would have trouble playing middle linebacker, safety, center or quarterback.”

Football will start as an intramural program for Ahmadu Bello, but there is hope to turn it into an intercollegiate sport.

With a foundation set, Hayes started work to equip the fledgling program.

Hayes has received a supply of Bibles from the Gideons for the mission. The football part is a little more complicated.

Hayes has been collecting “expired” football equipment from area schools to send to Africa. An expired equipment label is attached to pads and helmets which have been deemed too old for use. Most equipment is reconditioned, but has a 10-year shelf life by American safety standards.

Hayes has been collecting outdated helmets, pads, shirts, cleats and other equipment to send to Africa. Even though it is outdated here, most all of it is still useable.

Hayes visited South and North Hagerstown last Monday and has had equipment donations from Williamsport, Boonsboro, Mercersburg Academy and Jefferson high schools and Shepherdstown Middle School. He figures to have about $100,000 of goods to send to Nigeria.

The institute is also accepting monetary donations, but Hayes said they are hard to come by because of the economy.

Members of the institute are anxious to get the program off the ground. The combination of the sport and faith provides a diversion to survive and let out aggression in violent surroundings. It provides a light at the end of the road if some of the physically gifted players can cultivate skills that may provide a chance to play at an American college or in the NFL.

“Anyone who knows Daryl Hayes knows this all goes hand in hand,” he said. “In Christ, all things are possible … including football.”

• More information on the Nigerian Institute of American Football can be found online on Facebook and Wikipedia or by contacting Hayes at

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