Hayes goes with his 'heart,' picks Irish over MSU

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Daelin Hayes gets a hug from his mother, Lakeshia Neal, after announcing his will attend Notre Dame in December.

Ann Arbor – Five-star outside linebacker Daelin Hayes said Notre Dame has a special place in his heart, one of the big reasons he will play football for the Irish.

Hayes made the announcement Thursday afternoon at Ann Arbor Skyline High School, saying he picked Notre Dame over Michigan State. Ohio State was also among his top three schools.

Hayes, a 6-foot-4, 240-pounder with 4.5 speed, has been frequently injured, playing a little more than a half-dozen games over the last three years. He graduated from Skyline two weeks ago and plans to start his college career in January to get the chance to participate in spring practice.

Irish coach Brian Kelly had a two-hour in-house visit with Hayes Monday, talking to Hayes, his parents, and Skyline head football coach Chanterius Brock.

“They had a pretty good idea Monday after the two-hour visit,” said Hayes of the Irish’s chances of landing him. “I called Coach Kelly last night and he was ecstatic, the whole coaching staff was very excited.”

Hayes said he also called MSU coach Mark Dantonio.

“He was very cool about it, saying, ‘You have to do what’s best for you,’” Hayes said. “He said he obviously didn’t want that to affect our relationship, which is a great one. It was a great way to end things. After all, you can only go to one school.”

Hayes had been committed the last couple of years to USC, but decommitted back in October when Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian was placed on leave of absence. Sarkisian was fired soon after.

Hayes said at the time of his decommitment: “If I had to give a No. 1 school right now, Notre Dame would probably be it.”

At the time, Hayes also said Alabama had just given him a call and that MSU was in the mix.

Hayes attended Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas on Labor Day weekend, getting a hug from Kelly in the tunnel leading to the field, saying he heard the Irish fans chanting his name. He made another visit to South Bend the weekend after he decommitted from USC.

Hayes recalls watching his first Notre Dame game on television at age 8 when the Irish played Pittsburgh, saying to himself: “I want to play on that type of stage.”

He made his first visit to Notre Dame his freshman year and was offered by Kelly the summer following his sophomore year, his 10th offer at the time.

Hayes said during Thursday's press conference that he “took football out of the equation” in making his final decision. He said he felt confident he would be happy at Notre Dame if he suffered a career-ending injury.

Hayes suffered an injury to his left shoulder early in the season opener his sophomore year while playing at Orchard Lake St. Mary's. He played at Ventura St. Bonaventure in California his junior year, but was forced to come back to Michigan midway through the season due to a custody battle involving his parents. Then, he separated his right shoulder early in Skyline's Week 3 game against Saline this season.

“Brian Kelly’s a great guy,” noted Hayes. “He’s a consistent guy and a consistent coach with a consistent message. One of the biggest things I wanted to see in my recruitment was having that example of, 'Don’t tell me, show me.' They recruited me to play the (hybrid defensive end / linebacker) position that Jaylon Smith is playing and obviously Jaylon being the Butkus Award winner, I’d love to follow in his footsteps.

“And, like I said, Coach Kelly is great and all, but my commitment is to the University of Notre Dame. Being in that culture (winning football program) is excellent, a great platform, but it kind of sets that platform both on and off the field since the school sets the bar for academic excellence too.”

Hayes graduated with a 3.58 GPA. He plans to major in business.

When asked if he felt competition from Farmington Hills Harrison four-star recruit Khalid Kareem, Hayes answered: “No, he plays a different position (defensive end). I’ll be the stand-up rush linebacker like Jaylon.”

But when Kareem originally committed to Alabama during the summer, he said he was going to play the hybrid defensive end / outside linebacker spot.

Kareem decommitted from Alabama and announced during the season he was going to Notre Dame. He also plans to enroll early.

Detroit King four-star receiver / cornerback Donnie Corley -- ranked as the state's No. 1 player by The Detroit News with Hayes No. 2 -- said Tuesday he planned on taking a visit to Notre Dame this weekend.

While he was in the area for the in-home visit with Hayes, Kelly also went to Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School to visit with four-star junior linebacker Josh Ross.