PITTSBURGH — The Westinghouse High School auditorium was nearly empty, about 25 minutes before the Bulldogs’ four-star defensive lineman Dayon Hayes was ready to sign his letter of intent to the University of Pittsburgh.
Hayes was pacing around the auditorium, having small talk with his head football coach Donta Green and a few others.
During his senior season, Hayes recorded 23 sacks and led Westinghouse to their first City League Championship since 1996.
On the morning of his signing, the 6-foot-3 250 pounder was showing the same nervous energy that any high school kid would show when they are about to make a decision that could change their life forever.
Then moments later, Hayes’ face beamed with joy when roughly 20 of his teammates barged in the auditorium to show their support. Either Hayes’ teammates were thrilled to get out of math class on a Wednesday morning, or they were just extremely excited for their teammate.
Both were probably true.
Things then turned over to a more serious note. Two of Hayes’ current coaches, a former coach, and a mentor got up in front of Hayes and the crowd and provided words of encouragement to the newest Pitt Panther. They told him that they were proud of what he has accomplished but want him to keep striving to be better each day, for that one day, when he will be able to provide for his family.
Hayes then signed the paper, put on the Pitt hat, and everyone erupted with congratulatory applause.
“I’m really excited,” Hayes said. “I can’t wait (to get to Oakland), actually… I’m just really happy I get to go to Pitt because I get to stay around my family and you know, do what I love,”
It didn’t take long for the homegrown kid to realize that home was where he was staying.
Hayes verbally committed to Pat Narduzzi and the Panthers’ when he was on his official visit back in the summertime. People around him were telling him to take his time with his decision, but Hayes already had all the time he needed.
“Everyone was telling me, ‘Don’t commit, don’t commit (yet),’” Hayes said. “Then I’m like, ‘It feels right to commit.’ So, I just did it. I just went with the flow. I loved it.”
Since then, Hayes had been trying to hone his own recruiting skills. Not just on the local level, but with all of Pitt’s primary targets. He says that all of the commits from this class have been staying in touch and building relationships.
“We’re all in a group chat, and we talk like every other day,” Hayes said. “We are definitely all close to each other.”
Pitt’s current defensive stars have also been in touch with Hayes, and he said that when he went to a few practices, they taught him little things about the recruiting process and what to work on before he comes to college. Hayes said that talking with guys like Jaylen Twyman and Patrick Jones II just made him more comfortable when he was making his decision.
“They tell me, ‘Just keep on working and stay in the weight room.’ Just little stuff like that,” Hayes said. “I just want the team to win. I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”