Rockford native Hayes steps into starting role for UNM

MADISON, Wis. – Former Rockford Lutheran and East star Marcus Hayes is now a starting safety for the New Mexico football team. He’s a redshirt freshman for the Lobos, and helped them compete against Wisconsin this past weekend. Hayes forced and recovered a fumble from Heisman Trophy contender Jonathan Taylor, keeping the Lobos ahead in the game in the second quarter before Wisconsin eventually pulled away.

“I just like making plays for my teammates and be able to give them energy that everyone wants and needs,” Hayes said. “It was great.”

Hayes graduated from East High School in Rockford, and after a redshirt year, has stepped right into a starting role.

“Making the adjustment, I really had to focus and buy into what the coaches were telling me,” Hayes said. “Focus on learning the playbook and doing my role on the team. Not trying to do too much.”

Hayes made ten tackles to go along with the forced and recovered fumble. He says taking a redshirt year was a good move for his development.

“I think it helped me mentally and physically,” Hayes said. “Just being able to learn the playbook and have no pressure of trying to start right away or trying to get playing time and worry about messing up. Now I know everything and I can just play comfortably.”

Hayes also serves as New Mexico’s punt returner, although he only got one chance to do that against the Badgers. Defensively, he played almost every snap, but he still has room to grow and become even more of an impact player in the defensive backfield.

“I know that we have to tackle better, I know that he has to tackle better,” New Mexico head coach Bob Davie said. “[He has to] trigger a little better against the runs. I’m glad he’s with us. I’m glad he’s in our program.”

Thriving in a big environment against one of the top teams in the nation bodes well for Hayes’ future with the Lobos, as he makes his friends and family in Rockford proud.

Derek Bayne

Derek Bayne

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