Kent -- In a question and answer session this summer, new Kent State football head coach Paul Haynes opened up on a personal level.
Haynes revealed profound stories and deep thoughts about his beliefs and himself -- a proud family man who understands football's place in his life. A man who has not let success or failure change who he is and what he stands for. A man with character, who is not a character.
Here are some of his answers.
Who was your favorite player growing up?
I was never a star-stunned person. That may sound conceited, but I never wore other people's jerseys because I was always involved in something. I never sat there and watched TV a bunch, I was always kind of on the move. Being from Columbus and being a Raider fan, I loved Jack Tatum. The first time I got to meet him I was star-struck. I would say Jack Tatum and Walter Payton, then beyond football, Muhammad Ali.
Highlight of your career as an assistant coach:
I would say starting right off the bat with my very first coaching job at Ferris State, when we went to the final four in Division II. And playing in two national championship games at Ohio State.
But I think the coolest thing and the biggest highlights, and this may sound corny, but when you get phone calls from past players saying thanks. When I got this job a bunch of the guys from 1999 and 2000 when I was coaching here called. Just to get that phone call, and for them to reach out and be happy that you're here, those to me are the highlights in this profession.
Highlight as an assistant coach at Kent State:
The biggest highlight was getting the job, cause I tried it twice. In 1998, I interviewed with [then head coach] Dean Pees for the job and I didn't get it, then the very next year a guy left and I talked to Dean again and got the job.
Highlight as a player at Kent State:
Starting [at cornerback] as a freshman. We had a pretty talented team at the time. I came to fall camp as a preferred walk-on, and a couple guys got hurt. It goes back to showtime and what it means, be at your best when your best is needed and take advantage of an opportunity. That's what I did, I got an opportunity to start and seized it. You go in as a walk-on and your starting your first game at 168 pounds, it was crazy. But at the time it goes back to how you were raised, you just go to work and do what you have to do.
The biggest surprise since you've returned to Kent State:
The biggest thing is just the campus and the city of Kent has changed so much, even since 2000. I remember so many trees around here, and they got rid of all of them and it's opened up the campus so much and made it look so much better. Then all of the things they're doing downtown, those help you in recruiting and help you in everything. When you have nice thing,s you have pride about taking care of them. That's the biggest highlights so far.
On his first six months as head coach of the Golden Flashes:
With everything I do, my main focus is always on the players. You're dealing with 18 to 22-year olds, and we've had a minimal amount of problems. Plus we had our highest-ever [team] GPA last semester (2.84). To me, those are two things that you can sit there and see the transition for them, from [previous head coach Darrell] Hazell to me, has been a smooth one."
Highlight of those first six months:
The GPA. That doesn't happen a lot of times with transition. I think our support staff has done a great job, plus our assistant coaches picked up the pieces as far as challenging our guys to get the 3.0.
On the reception he's received from the campus and community:
I think it's been great. The community, to get them involved, we have to be visible and be seen. In the spring, we went to local elementary schools and had the (players) reading to kids. We will continue to do that in the fall. We're gonna go to all of the elementary schools in Kent, Ravenna, Stow and Hudson, we're gonna branch out. And we're gonna go see cancer patients at the hospital every Friday during the season. That's our job, to get out there. I just want to make [the community] feel like a part of the team, and when we win, we all win.
Talk about the difference between your coaching style and that of previous coach Hazell:
I think [the players] had a complete change. Me and Darrell are two different types. He's more controlled and laid back, emotions are kept in, while mine are more outward. I wear shorts and get after them a little bit -- not that Darrell didn' -- but I think that was a difference for the kids, just the style of coaching.
Biggest concerns heading into the 2013 season:
I think the big thing is handling success, everyone sitting there patting you on the back telling you how great last year was. Last year is over, there's no reason to talk about it, no reason for anyone that stands in front of this team to say how much they enjoyed last year.
You can go from the penthouse to the outhouse real fast if you keep thinking about that. The fact is, we lost the last two games, we didn't end it the right way. It's all about how you finish. The dying words of any great company are we did that last year, we did the same thing, we did it that way. You've gotta find new ways to do things and always be on your toes.
Then, of course, you have a new quarterback, you have [three] new offensive linemen, the heart of your defense -- your linebackers -- are new guys, and you've gotta find a corner and a safety. Those are concerns.
There are still a lot of holes we have to fill. And you look at the schedule and it's tough, just where teams are placed. We've gotta get good real fast. It's gonna be a super competitive, tough camp, because we've gotta find answers and find them fast. We've gotta find who can play in fire and take it.
On the current state of Kent State football:
Not by any means is Kent State football fixed. You need years and years of success for it to be a true program. As an alum, regardless of if I'm sitting in this seat or it's someone else, I want Kent State football to be the best it can possibly be. I'm invested in this thing, my heart, my mind, it's a passion to have Kent State be a great program.
It's more than just being the head coach at Kent State, it's being an alumnus of Kent State, being in that locker room and putting on that uniform. Leave a legacy? Yeah, that would be awesome. But if things happen and they get rid of you or you move on, you want that next guy to have things in place for it to be a great program so it can be a great program for years, not once every 40 years.
I think the university, the city of Kent and everybody else deserves that.
What should fans expect from your Kent State football program:
Kent State football is gonna be tough, hard-nosed, exciting football. Hopefully, they will see that and come out and support us. Being real, I know we say it doesn't matter if nobody is in the stands, but it matters. Hopefully, people will come out and support these guys cause they work their tails off.
They're doing great on the football field, great in school, great socially, and it's tough to do all of that. Their only reward is to come out on Saturday and put on a show for people. I want to break records in attendance this year. If we put ourselves in position to win championships in November I want people to see that and be at the games and support these guys.
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