Heart over height

By RayJaun Stelly, contributing writer

When thinking of the Tacoma mentality, instantly icons such as Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Abdul Gaddy come to mind.

“My attitude is just trying to get better and be the best player I can be. I feel like I can play at the highest level so I have to prove it,” said Abdul Gaddy, Tacoma native and professional basketball player. “I carry Tacoma with me always because I’m from here, it made me who I am. Not a lot of people come out of here so I have to carry the city for the next generation.”

Redshirt freshman Dehonta “JET” Hayes, a Tacoma native, carries on the mentality with a chip on his shoulder. Standing at 5’11” and weighing 195 pounds, his appearance may not intimidate the opposition, but once he hits the field, Hayes’ presence is felt immediately.

“Being overlooked was a curse and a blessing at the same time,” said Hayes. “Most coaches underestimated my abilities based off my size, others were just unsure about what kind of athlete I’ll grow to become.”

Hayes was a scary sight on the defensive end after graduating from Lincoln High School in 2015 with teammate Jayson Williams. Hayes was listed as a three-star recruit, rated the second-best safety and 16th-best prospect in Washington state by scout.com. Coming out of high school with 11 other Division I offers, he chose EWU to make a name for himself.

“I built a prior relationship with the coaching staff and players at EWU, which made my choice a lot easier,” Hayes said.

As a senior, Hayes was named first-team All-3A Narrows League as a defensive back and second team as a wide receiver and kick returner. He was also a second-team selection at defensive back for the Tacoma News Tribune All-Area team. “I knew what I was getting myself into going to a school like Lincoln where it’s full of athletes,” said Hayes. “All the negativity that came from the critics and doubters was more motivation to become better.”

During his high school career he had 15 interceptions, 240 tackles, five special teams touchdowns and was a three-time team captain. With such a great career, Hayes was expecting to come and play immediately, but both he and the coaching staff made the decision for him to redshirt.

“Redshirting, to me, was the best idea I came up with, although I was given the opportunity to play or redshirt by my coach,” said Hayes. “I knew there was some key things I needed to work on before I would be able to excel at the college level.”

Many see redshirting as only a time to improve sports-wise, which Hayes managed to do as he was named defensive scout player of the week once in 2015, but his off-field performance has flourished as well. Hayes had a 3.6 grade point average in high school, and in just two quarters at EWU, the future business administration major recieved a 3.89 grade point average.

“Having the ability to not only inspire younger kids but my siblings as well is something I’ve always strived to do,” Hayes said.

Listed as a reserve at safety and rover on the 2016 preseason depth chart, Hayes will show how his Tacoma mentality and redshirt year is a force to be reckoned with.