Standing outside of the locker room after the game, with ice taped to his hip, wincing in pain, senior quarterback Reggie Hayes modestly accepted compliments from teammates, fans and coaches.
Hayes had completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 213 yards and three touchdowns in the Rattlers’ 37-24 win over the Tennessee State Tigers Saturday. He also rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries and one touchdown.
“I was very pleased with Reggie,” said coach Billy Joe. “He had a great first half and stepped up on plays when he needed to. I was surprised he didn’t get the MVP.”
The Most Valuable Player awards went to Tennessee State quarterback Dwayne Buchanan and FAMU safety Levy Brown.
“I have a role to play on this team and that’s my job, to step up,” Hayes said.
When the Tigers kept shutting down the Rattler running game, Hayes knew something had to change.
“We came out with a balanced game plan…they took the run so we had to resort to the pass,” Hayes said.
Again and again, Hayes resorted to the pass.
With 11:26 remaining in the first quarter, Hayes hit Marco Junious with an 11-yard pass for FAMU’s first touchdown and with 8:28 left in the first quarter Dennis Bonga caught a 24-yard pass from Hayes for another touchdown.
The pass proved successful and by the end of the first half, Hayes had found his rhythm for the game.
“We were playing the pass more so than the run,” Joe said.
When starting quarterback Casey Printers injured his left ankle in the game against Morgan State Sept. 14, Hayes stepped up to the challenge. Taking over late in the second quarter, he rushed for 59 yards including one touchdown and completed two of six passes for 59 yards in the Rattlers’ 34-16 win over the Bears.
Starting for the first time in his collegiate career against Delaware State on Sept. 21, Hayes completed 14 of 26 passes for 160 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He also rushed for 53 yards and a touchdown in the disappointing but acceptable 20-18 win.
Former Rattler quarterback Quinn Gray, FAMU’s career passing and total offense leader, was surprised that Hayes wasn’t given the opportunity sooner.
“To be honest I always thought Reggie was going to take over and step up when I left…I’m proud that he can step up and lead the team…he had a great game and deserves to be commended,” Gray said.
While proud of Hayes’ skill and achievements, Joe said he is hopeful that Printers will be back in the starting lineup by Oct. 5 for the match-up against South Carolina State.
Aware of his position and role on the team, Hayes looks to the future with optimism and understanding.
“I just pray that I stay healthy and perform the way we prepare in practice,” Hayes said.
Elizabeth Broadway can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.