NOTRE DAME, Indiana — University of Notre Dame defensive lineman Daelin Hayes has been named a semifinalist for the 2020 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award. The award recognizes college football student-athletes each season from all divisions of college football for overcoming injury or illness. Hayes is one of 14 semifinalists.
The graduate student returned to the college football field after a season-ending injury suffered as a senior. He dislocated his shoulder, on which he had endured two previous surgeries in high school. With significant damage to the labrum, joint capsule and bone, Hayes required surgery and began the rehab process.
Even with a significantly-altered spring semester due to COVID-19, Hayes persevered through rehabilitation and followed through on a home exercise and training program to return healthy in the fall. With a now changed view of his 2020 plans, he took advantage of a medical redshirt opportunity to return to the field.
Upon his return, Hayes was named a team captain, and is a key leader on the Irish defense. After clinching an undefeated regular season, the Irish earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. One of the top units in the country, Notre Dame’s defense ranks sixth in the FBS in third-down defense (29.4 percent), seventh in fumbles recovered (10), 15th in rushing defense (110.5 yards allowed per game), 14th in scoring defense (18.6 points allowed per game) and 14th in team TFL (7.8 per game).
On the day he was named a team captain, Hayes spoke to the media and was asked about his injury and recovery.
“I was playing my best ball that I had up to [that point in] my career. Two weeks later, I ended up being hurt, but I was fine. … I knew I had another opportunity to come back to be with my brothers. I felt one thing that I had stuck in my head last year, and I was kind of disappointed about, was that I felt that I had more to give to this University and to this team. I felt like I had a lot more in the tank from a leadership aspect, from a player aspect, from a student aspect, just being involved in our community of Notre Dame.
“In the community itself, I just felt like there was so much more left on the table for me to give, and sure enough, God gave me another opportunity, another year to come back, to be involved in the community, to stand up for what is right. Our team stood for social justice, and we continue to stand for that, being involved in our community, being involved with countless organizations throughout campus.”
Through his recovery and return process, Hayes also emerged as a staunch advocate for racial and social justice, in addition to his long-tenured emphasis on serving his local community. He organized and spoke at Notre Dame Football’s Juneteenth Rally, also serving as a national voice on the subject to media and fans. In addition, he has served in South Bend for a host of organizations, including helping often at the Robinson Community Learning Center. For his efforts, he received the Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award and is a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award.