Hall of Fame player Mike Haynes was drafted fifth overall in the 1976 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He came out of Arizona State, and was one of the highest ranked prospects coming out that year. Now, he a is a Super Bowl Champion, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is ranked 49th on a list of the top 100 players of all time. Haynes understands what it takes to be successful in the NFL. When ProPlayerInsiders caught up with Haynes at the 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas he said that today’s draft experience is very different than it was for him in 1976.
“Oh Gosh, it’s night and day… it’s just completely different”, said Haynes. “When I picked up the phone I heard “This is Pat Horne, PR man for the Patriots. You’ve just been drafted fifth overall, hold for coach Fairbank.” That was the extent of it really.”
Haynes was at home with his family and says back then Draft was not the huge celebration event it is now where players go to the draft and walk on stage and the red carpet. He added, “players today get to travel to a big city, meet with media members after and talk with multiple people involved with the organization. There is more buildup, and publicity surrounding the draft today.” Players have to instantly deal with the social media aspect of draft and the backlash that can come from that.
One aspect of the draft has that hasn’t changed says Haynes is the pressure that comes with being a top pick. Everyone expects these top players to be superstars. “I don’t really think they will think about that once they get to their club, and meet some of the guys on the team, and start to settle down. They’ll meet the team’s number one last year and have a better understanding of what is expected” says Haynes.
On draft night Haynes added that, ” it is difficult for the players not knowing where they are going to end up. They can be on the complete opposite side of the country from where they have been their entire life.” That is exactly what happened to Haynes. He grew up in California and lived there until heading to Arizona State for college. “I get drafted to New England, and it’s like a different country, a foreign country to me, you know, the people were completely different than what I was used to and it was a little bit shocking.” says Haynes about his transition to New England. He said it took a little bit of time to transition, “maybe by the end of the season I started to feel more comfortable.”
Haynes said veteran players in the locker room are extremely important for these young guys to connect with. “Getting to know your teammates is the best thing to do. I think getting to know the guys you are playing with and getting a sense of the culture. That is what I did more than anything else. Trying to connect with the veterans, some of these guys are 30, you know with kids, it’s a whole different deal. There is a lot to learn.” The veteran players have been through the process and will help the rookies and guide them through it and will benefit the team as well.
Finally, Haynes said there is more responsibility and choices with being drafted into the NFL now. The players today have bigger contracts, more media attention and many more options with their free time than before. “So how are you going to use your time? Are you going to go shopping, go eat, go to the bar, what are you going to do now? There’s a lot of that” Haynes says. “That is how some careers end. They get into trouble outside of football and it will affect their careers. It is important for every rookie to understand their responsibilities.”
Rookies should listen to Haynes advice – he know what he’s talking about. He played for the Patriots from 1976-82 and was one of two Patriots selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team. His rookie season in 1976 was one of the best in team history, intercepting 8 passes and returning two punts for touchdowns. Haynes was named to six Pro Bowls in his seven years with the Patriots and was the first Patriot to return a punt for a touchdown. He was elected to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1994 and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his career at Arizona State University in 2001.
Please follow on Twitter @MikeHaynesNFL @PlayerInsiders
Special thanks to Elizabeth McCollum and Dana Gordon of @BZAPR
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