Being a back-up quarterback is not an easy job, but somebody has to do it.
“I’ve always been tired of being a back-up but that’s not my decision,” said senior quarterback Reggie Hayes. “I have to roll with coach’s decision and that’s just how it has become.”
A true walk-on, Hayes was redshirted his first season with the Rattlers, did not play during the 1999 or 2000 seasons and returned to the roster for the 2001 season. Holding on to a second string position behind starting quarterback Quinn Gray, Hayes played in only two games during the 2001 season.
Hayes took his first snap as a Rattler against the Howard Bison Sept. 29, 2001. With about four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, he rushed 10 yards for the first touchdown of his collegiate career. “It felt great to get in the end zone,” Hayes said.
After a long season on the bench, Hayes was ready to have a starting position his senior year. Unfortunately, the recruitment of Casey Printers halted these plans.
“With the history of D-I transfers transferring in, it wasn’t a shock. It kind of hurt because I thought I was going to be the next starter and everything but I just had to take it slow and just accept my role how it came to me,” Hayes said.
Once again, Hayes became the No. 2 quarterback. Faith and prayer has kept the self-proclaimed “silent assassin” determined and accepting of his position on the team.
A 1998 graduate of Miami Central High School, Hayes credits his mother and grandmother as major influences in his life.
“Growing up where I lived, without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
Ronald Redmon, Hayes’ high school coach, also played an important role in his development over the years.
“He taught me a lot of things that I take with me to this day,” Hayes said, “like staying humble, listening to whoever is giving advice, just take the good from the bad and just go on from there. We had an all around good relationship on and off the field.”
Redmon said that Hayes’ greatest strengths on the field were his leadership ability and understanding of the offense.
“His competitive edge and work ethic was second to none. He understood every play to the point where he was like a coach on the field.”
Mainly a drop back and passing quarterback in high school, Hayes learned to perfect his running game as a Rattler. He is now the team’s leading rusher averaging 61.7 yards per game. Hayes’ ability to run and pass the ball well makes him a unique asset to the Rattler football program.
“We haven’t had too many quarterbacks who had the ability to run and pass. As good as Quinn Gray was, he did not have Reggie’s ability to run the ball. As great as Pat Bonner was here, he did not have Reggie’ s ability to run the ball, so Reggie has some nice qualities about his game,” said coach Billy Joe.
During the season opener Aug. 31 against the University of Miami, Hayes made history. His four-yard touchdown run against the Hurricanes marked the first FAMU touchdown in the Orange Bowl since 1979.
“To be the first person to score a touchdown on Miami since 1979 it felt great, but we would have liked to come out with the score looking a lot better than it did,” Hayes said.
Hayes made his first collegiate start this season against Delaware State. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 160 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He rushed for 53 yards and one touchdown.
After playing in every game this season, Hayes is No. 3 in passing (69 of 134 attempts for 895 yards, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions) No. 4 in rushing (98 carries for 432 yards and six touchdowns) and No. 3 in total offense (232 plays for 1327 yards) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
“He’s a football player,” Joe said, “once he gets out onto the field he can be very physical, very demanding and extremely forceful.”