This past weekend was a dream come true for hundreds of NFL locks and hopefuls, whether they heard their names called or were signed as an undrafted free agent. For Baltimore Ravens rookie OLB Daelin Hayes, it was a dream come true in more ways than one.
Wow... how many kids get the opportunity to play professional football for their childhood favorite team?? #RavensFlock— Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_IX) May 3, 2021
In his press conference after being selected No. 171 overall on Saturday, he stressed that the Ravens were his favorite NFL team growing up.
“I spoke to Coach [John Harbaugh] a couple days ago, and I remember telling him Baltimore has been my favorite team since I was a kid,” said Hayes.
Like many of the defenders currently in the league, Hayes grew up watching franchise greats like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and others in primetime showdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He idolized the way they both played and approached the game and despite being a native of Detroit, Michigan, he fell in love with Charm City even though he was never a resident.
“That love, that genuine love that I’ve always had for the city of Baltimore, for that team when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and those guys were locking guys down – that was really the example that I had when I started playing defense. That genuine love, the work ethic, a versatile player, [my] best ball is ahead. I’m going to go in, bust my butt, learn from the older guys and compete to the highest level.”
While he never lived in Baltimore, Hayes shared a story about a trip he made to the city when he was in high school where he visited the same field that he will be calling home for at least the next four years.
“Back when I was in high school, we had the Five Star Challenge. The Five Star Challenge was obviously at M&T Bank Stadium,” said Hayes. “I remember Coach Harbaugh came and spoke to us and just kind of told a story about him and his brother way back when they would have these wrestling matches on their family vacations.”
Harbaugh regaled the youths in attendance about those matches between him and his younger brother Jim, and how they would have stare downs where they would have ‘This is where we stand’ moments. His future head coach went on to compare those instances to the time they met on opposing sidelines in their professional careers in Super Bowl 47.
“Obviously, they’re not kids anymore wrestling, but that was kind of that ’This is where we stand’ moment between brothers,” Hayes said. “I remember having that conversation, and it stuck with me, I don’t know why, for like five [or] six years. Like I said, I’ve just been a Baltimore fan for so long.”
Being a strong leader both on and off the field is one of Hayes’ core values and is a character trait that he takes tremendous pride in and attracted the Ravens to him. He also believes in a strong sense of community and stressed his desire to ingratiate himself with the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland as a Raven — just as he did in South Bend as a member of the Fighting Irish.
“As far as the community, that’s something that was extremely important to me at Notre Dame, and it’s something that I’m going to continue to do with my NFL career,” Hayes said. “Just continuing to be a servant, to be a leader, grow as a player, and just continue to maximize each day and each opportunity.”
Hayes was the second edge rusher that the Ravens selected in this year’s draft, with Penn State’s Odafe Oweh being the first. From a football standpoint, he believes he fits well in Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale’s hybrid 3-4 scheme and that he can help offset the losses of Pro Bowlers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to compete and be able to play at that SAM position, [in] that 3-4 [defense]. So, I think it’s a great fit,” said Hayes. “It’s a great fit for me to come in and compete, obviously, just to continue to grow, contribute on special teams, do whatever I can do to help this team win, and just do my part. I’m just excited to come in and have the opportunity because that’s all I ever needed, was an opportunity.”
Hayes definitely has the right attitude and the skill set that the Ravens look for in their outside linebackers. He is comfortable rushing from either a two or three-point stance and can drop into coverage.
After being a rotational player for most of his collegiate career, Hayes improved every year and had a strong redshirt senior season. In 2020, he tied his career-high mark in single-season sacks with three in just nine games and hauled in his first career interception. He was invited and attended the 2021 Senior Bowl where he likely caught the eye of Ravens’ scouts by turning heads with his performance during the week of practice.
SENIOR BOWL SPOTLIGHT— Rivals (@Rivals) February 19, 2021
Former five-star and Notre Dame DL Daelin Hayes @DaelinHayes_IX made some big plays in practice @seniorbowl
Check out his best practice reps
For more Senior Bowl footage, subscribe to our YouTube Channel: https://t.co/IrJBrEZYIP pic.twitter.com/D23mjd077W
“I feel like I’m as versatile of a defensive player in this draft as anyone,” said Hayes. For me, it’s just about that consistency with pass rush. That’s going to come with more reps. Obviously, I’m going to be able to learn. I’ve taken a lot of strides just from the season to the Senior Bowl.”
He will be expected to contribute on special teams heavily as a rookie. Even if the Ravens add a veteran edge rusher between now and the season opener, Hayes will have the opportunity to work into the outside linebacker rotation at SAM and RUSH because he has the size and skill set to play both.
“I‘m excited to come in and contribute and play in any way that I can, God willing, just continue to grow and have a long career in Baltimore.”
The Ravens have a rich history of fielding strong defenses and developing quality-to-elite edge rushers. Hayes has been a long admirer of organization from afar and can’t wait to uphold and carry on the tradition now that he is an official member.
“When you put on that black and purple, you’re a part of a long history of greatness, so that’s something that I wholeheartedly embrace, and I’m excited to be a part of.”