NOTRE DAME, Indiana — University of Notre Dame graduate student defensive lineman Daelin Hayes has been selected as one of 20 national semifinalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. The award honors college football student-athletes who have demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field.
A four-year starter, Hayes was set for a full final season with the Irish in 2019 when he suffered a serious injury early in the season, which prevented him from playing for the remainder of his senior year. He underwent surgery and had to work back into football form, and valuable reentry time during spring practice was unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” Hayes said to the media at the beginning of the 2020 season. “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.”
Selected as a team captain this season, Hayes became a leader in Notre Dame Football’s efforts to promote and enact racial justice. He is a member of the program’s Unity Council, a group which also includes staff members and head coach Brian Kelly, and organizes efforts to give student-athletes a voice. He helped coordinate and was a speaker at the program’s Juneteenth Rally for social justice, and has been a voice for the program on the national stage. As part of the Unity Council’s efforts, every eligible student-athlete in the football program was registered to vote.
Hayes is in the midst of an impressive fifth-year campaign, leading a defensive line that has combined for the ACC’s second-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 85.1 yards/game. This figure trails only Pittsburgh in the ACC (78.8 yards/game). Notre Dame’s rushing defense ranks fifth nationally. On his career, Hayes has played in 49 total games, including at least 11 games each as a true freshman, sophomore and junior. He has totaled 93 tackles, 20.5 TFL, three FF, five FR and 9.0 sacks.
This season already, Hayes has 3.0 sacks, two FF, one FR and three QBH, and was named ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his performance at Georgia Tech.
Hayes has been highly active in the South Bend community, and was named a 2019-20 ACC Top Six for Service award winner. Prior to his recent work, Daelin has been actively involved in the Robinson Community Learning Center, an educational initiative that reaches over 8,000 youth in the Greater South Bend area annually. He is also a leader at team community service events, including Shop With A Player (team members take children from local schools and the Pokagon Band shopping for Christmas presents), Football & The Force (charity softball game between Notre Dame football and local law enforcement officers), Saint Mary’s College Dance Marathon to benefit Riley Hospital for Children, Roof Sit to prevent child abuse in St. Joseph County, among several other volunteer efforts.