CAMP TONTOZONA — Back for the first time in nearly 40 years, Mike Haynes noticed not a whole lot had changed since he and his teammates spent many an hour amid the pines preparing for upcoming seasons.
“Very rustic, but they still have spiders and big bugs. That hasn’t changed,” Haynes said with a smile as he watched practice Tuesday. “They do now have hot running (water) showers. We didn’t have that luxury.”
Haynes, a three-time All-Western Athletic Conference selection and two-time All-American, played four years at ASU. His career in the NFL covered 14 seasons between the New England Patriots and the Oakland Raiders, with whom he won a Super Bowl.
Haynes’ return was more than just a casual visit to a place he had not been since 1975.
The College and Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback addressed the team, delivering a message on the eve of the first practice at Camp T.
“That it’s their team,” Haynes said. “Having a great season is up to them. The coaches are going to put them in position to do the great things, to play great, but it is really up to them.”
Head coach Todd Graham, more so than many who preceded him, has embraced the history and tradition at ASU. The night before games, he brings in a former player to speak to the team.
“I think it motivates our players,” Graham said. “Mike Haynes can speak about being a Sun Devil in a way that I could never could come close to. That’s why I think it’s important. I think it helps us win games.”
Haynes, a nine-time Pro Bowler and member of both the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, came away impressed with Graham and his staff.
“High pace. Everybody seems focused. [Graham] knows every single position and he gets involved in every single position. I think it’s great,” Haynes said.
“If they can keep this pace all year long and keep improving — because they don’t have a lot to improve, if you know what I’m saying. If 10 is the highest level, they’re not at five; they’re at eight. They got to work hard on the little things. I think they have a real good chance.”
Haynes, along with his former coach Frank Kush, joined in the singing of the Sun Devil fight song after practice.
“It brings back a ton of great memories. This is where it all starts,” Haynes said. “I don’t think I’ll miss next year.”