Gump Hayes filled a variety of roles with the Arizona State Sun Devils upon transferring to the school from Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania, beginning his career as a running back before transitioning to cornerback as a senior.
He also returned punts and kicks during his two seasons in Tempe, but when it was all over with, he did not do enough to convince a team to spend a draft pick on him.
That does not mean Hayes, whose given name is De’Chavon, will not have a chance to make it in the NFL. The Arizona Cardinals signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent, and now having gone through rookie mini-camp, OTAs and regular mini-camp, he’s ready for what could lie ahead.
A guest of Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station, Hayes said the Cardinals have used him at corner but he would not mind moving back to running back at some point.
But really, he just wants to be on the field.
“As long as I’m on the field and I can make plays and put the team in a situation to win ballgames, I’m fine,” he said.
Hayes’ road to doing so will not be an easy one.
After collecting three interceptions along with 42 total tackles, seven tackles for loss and nine passes defensed as a redshirt senior in 2016, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound defensive back was not expected to hear his name called during the draft.
He has impressed in his short time with the Cardinals, where after one of the final mini-camp practices in which Hayes made some plays, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians praised his quickness.
“He shows up every day and he’s another young guy that’s — I don’t care how you get here, just show that you put good tape out there (and) you’ve got a chance.”
Hayes is confident his time with the Sun Devils helped prepare him for this opportunity.
“Just the whole mentality that Coach Graham used to always just feed to us, just the character and just the whole discipline,” Hayes said. “When you talk, you say, ‘yes sir,’ that transitions a lot to the league.
“Coming into the league and just playing, just having fun but just having that mentality that you’ve got to play this game hard. You can’t give these guys nothing.”
That includes stars like Larry Fitzgerald, who Hayes said he was not starstruck by but does feel fortunate to have lined up against on the field and sat next to in team meetings.
Hayes said it’s nice how the team’s veterans have been willing to help out, lending the kind of advice that comes with experience.
It should all help his future and now, with his first training camp less than a month away, Hayes draws motivation from his past.
“Just knowing where I came from and everything I’ve been through to get to this point,” he said. “Coming out of high school, I missed a season coming out of high school, then going to junior college, then missing a season at ASU to just going from running back to cornerback.
“Everything I’ve been through to get to where I’m at now, that’s my motivation.”
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