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July 30, 2010

Kelly plucks another elite Michigan recruit in Hayes

Grand Blanc, MI - Forrest Gump got tired of running. Justice Hayes got tired of recruiting, but there's still plenty of running to be done, and now everyone knows where.

At a press conference held at his high school Friday afternoon, the No. 75 player in the Rivals.com class of 2011 made his decision amongst family, coaches and the media.

"The college that I'll be attending in the summer of 2011 will be the University of Notre Dame," Hayes said.

The top-rated running back in the state of Michigan, and the No. 5 all-purpose back in his class, Hayes talked about the emotional wear of the recruiting process as part of reasoning to push up the decision to now.

"Nothing against the media, everybody's doing their job, but after a while you get tired of it," Hayes said. "It gets annoying, and you just want to throw your phone out the window sometimes. Honestly though, I was just ready to make my decision when I went down there, and that's what led me to wanting to become a Fighting Irish."

"It's fun; people talk about you as a high-profile guy, and that's amazing. But I think it's time out for that, to focus on my last year, things I need to finish in the classroom. I also want to focus on the football season as well. We want to win a state title this year, go to the playoffs; I just want to focus on the team from here on out."

Hayes, who rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 12 touchdowns his junior campaign, talked about the visit earlier this month that secured his faith in the Irish.

"I took my visit back to Notre Dame, I didn't expect anything out of it. I went down there like, 'this is going to be just another visit.' But when I went down there, I fell in love with all the coaches all over again," Hayes said.

"That's definitely No. 1 on my list, is academics, and I want to be a successful person and support my family with everything that they need," Hayes said. "After that it was just an easy thing for me, because I knew Notre Dame had academic support, a great networking system, and everything just felt right. I wasn't just thinking about the four years in college, I'm thinking about four-plus and after college."

While there's been speculation that some schools were interested in Hayes as a defensive back, it appears Brian Kelly's staff doesn't appear to be of that line of thought.

"There have been a lot of schools that wanted me at d-back, but Notre Dame, they've been telling me they want me on the offensive side of the ball. If I'm playing running back, slot wide receiver, it doesn't matter, I think I can excel at any of those positions."

He added the factor of Kelly getting involved in his recruiting back to the coach's tenure at Cincinnati.

"That was very significant," Hayes said. "Brian Kelly, some of his coaches came in last year from Cincinnati, and honestly, I did not look at it all when they came. I said, 'Cincinnati?' But I was young, I didn't know what to look for and stuff like that. But I got older, and when he went to Notre Dame, I said this dude really wants me because he came earlier in the year and made an impact during that time."

Hayes said he still has work to do personally his senior season to prepare for South Bend.

"Basically, [the biggest thing to work on is] just getting stronger," Hayes said. I'm one of the strongest guys on our team, but getting stronger as a player, getting stronger as a person. Just being ready and getting myself mentally prepared for when I go to college."

Grand Blanc coach Joe Delaney, who coached wide receiver Tony Jones (who also helped Hayes with the process), talked about when he knew he had something special in Hayes.

"I thought he was pretty good. His sophomore year when we brought him up, he did a lot more than I expected," Delaney said. "But at the end of his sophomore year we had some of the college coaches come through recruiting Tony, and I asked (asst. head) coach Reggie Mitchell who's at Illinois…I took him back in the office and showed him two highlight clips, and he turned around and he said, 'I'll offer him right now; I'll call Coach (Ron) Zook and we'll offer him right now.' He said he didn't need to see anymore."

Coach Delaney, who plans to lean offensively more on his star running back this fall, added one quip to the end of the press conference to wrap things up.

"As a Michigan State grad, we certainly wish him all the best, except for one game."


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