Student-athlete of the year: Dehonta Hayes


Richard N. Clark IV

Dehonta Hayes, redshirt junior safety, poses for The Easterner’s first student-athlete of the year award. “I’m more than just a football player,” Hayes said. “I care about this school, this community and the people who go to this school.”

By Drew Lawson, Reporter

Our inaugural Eag of the Year awards recognize three members of EWU who have gone above and beyond to represent the campus community. One scholar, one athlete and one staff/faculty member. The awards, which were voted on by students from various organizations on campus, were given to nominees who adhered to the following, based on EWU’s five core values: quality, inclusiveness, integrity, collaboration and student-centered.

Dehonta Hayes discovered a passion for giving back to the community in his hometown of Tacoma during high school. The redshirt junior safety has continued to be an active community member while at EWU and cites his high school coaches as his inspiration.

“Growing up I didn’t have a positive example in (my life),” Hayes said. “But I saw the example the (coaches) were setting for me … I thought I could do that for other people.”

Hayes has been influential in promoting EWU’s food pantries.  As part of a public relations campaign class, he partnered with the Office of Community Engagement to let students know about the food pantries’ availability. A full story on the campaign was originally published in The Easterner on March 13.

“I thought the (campaign) idea was great, and I just took it and ran with it,” Hayes said. “I thought that partnering with the football team and creating a food drive was a great idea.”

Hayes said that since his campaign and food drive, awareness and usage of the food pantries has increased.

“Within the first week or two after (The Easterner) article came out, the food pantries were being used way more than they were before,” Hayes said. “The goals that (we) wanted to achieve were achieved.”

Hayes, who had 87 tackles and four pass breakups in 2018, has been involved in the community with other members of the football team outside of the food drive by visiting local schools and reading to children. Hayes said that’s an important effort to him, because he wants to show children that the team cares about them.

“They come to our games and support us,” Hayes said. “We want to show them that we support them as well.”

Character driven

Hayes nominated himself for Eag of the Year. He received written recommendations for the award from EWU head coach Aaron Best, EWU public relations professor Jessica Boyer and Hayes’ high school head coach Eric Boles. Best said in his recommendation that Hayes possesses qualities that align with team and university values.

Richard N. Clark IV
Dehonta Hayes poses in front of Roos Field. After leaving EWU, Hayes plans on returning to Tacoma and will continue finding ways to get involved in the community.

“His friendliness and willingness to converse with people is far and away his greatest quality,” Best said in his letter. “Dehonta has the innate ability to connect with many different types of people, personalities and perspectives … His company is enjoyed by a wide variety of people.”

All three recommendations mentioned Hayes’ strong achievements in the classroom. Hayes currently maintains a 3.8 GPA. Boyer, who has had Hayes in several of her classes, mentioned his willingness to go above and beyond with his assignments.

“Dehonta is very dedicated to his studies and is one of the top students in my PR courses,” Boyer’s letter said. “His critical thinking and analytical skills are particularly impressive; Dehonta often approaches public relations issues with the strategic professionalism of someone well beyond his experience level.”

Boles said he was “delighted” to be recommending Hayes for the award after serving as his coach for several years, and that he “truly loves” Hayes and what he represents.

“Dehonta is a terrific athlete and terrific student, but what sets him apart is his character,” Boles said in his letter. “His success so far has been a result of hard work and his positive attitude. These are the qualities that will allow Dehonta to succeed in life.”

“They come to our games and support us. We want to show them that we support them as well.””

— Dehonta Hayes, redshirt junior safety

EWU All-American senior center Spencer Blackburn echoed Boles’ sentiments about Hayes’ work ethic and said his commitment to going “all-in” with everything he does is impressive. Blackburn added that Hayes is “just a little different.” When asked what that meant, Blackburn said that people who are “different” go above and beyond the status quo. Blackburn referred to Hayes’ efforts with the food pantry as an example.

“That’s not an easy chore to be a part of,” Blackburn said. “But (Hayes) isn’t a half-in person; if he does something, he’s going all in.”

Hayes learned about the Eag of the Year award from Associate Athletic Director of Communications Dave Cook.

“He was telling me the (award) could be something I’d be interested in, considering I’ve been working very hard this school year to increase my image not just on the football field, but off it,” Hayes said. “I’m more than just a football player. I care about this school, this community and the people who go to this school.”

After leaving EWU, Hayes plans on returning to Tacoma and will continue finding ways to get involved in the community. He said that area is currently in need of a lot of help, which he feels he can provide.

“They need as (many) people coming back and being able to help,” Hayes said. “When I’m done (with school) I’m going to go right back and somehow involve myself in the community.”

Hayes said he doesn’t expect anything in return for his efforts, noting that if that were the case, “I wouldn’t be doing it for the right reasons.”

“I’m doing it out of generosity and the care that I have for younger people,” Hayes said. “I’m not doing it to gain anything or for people to give me awards … I do it just because I care.”