This wasn’t the path Dehonta Hayes envisioned when he concluded a solid Eastern Washington football career, but he’s taking it with gratitude.
In a year when fringe NFL prospects saw their hopes dashed because of the novel coronavirus, it’s all Hayes can do.
Hayes, a hard-hitting safety who led EWU in tackles in 2019, recently signed with the Spokane Shock and will begin his professional career with a brand of indoor football foreign to the All-Big Conference talent.
He’s the latest in a long line of former EWU standouts to make the transition.
“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Hayes said. “It’s an opportunity to generate some good film, and if I get a call from a NFL or Canadian Football League team, I’m allowed to leave.”
The rebirth of the Spokane Shock – a once successful Arena Football League franchise that’s now a member of the Indoor Football League – was slated for the spring before the pandemic wiped outs the 2020 schedule.
Hayes was in talks with multiple NFL teams before the draft and looked to at least get signed as an undrafted free agent , but the cancellation of college pro days at campuses across the country kept scouts from seeing Hayes and other small-school prospects in person.
Hayes believes that’s the biggest reason EWU didn’t produce at least one rookie free-agent signing for the first time since 2009.
“Without that, I’m definitely getting drafted or picked up, but I can’t use that as an excuse,” Hayes said. “(The Shock) has some great players from big-time college programs, so I’m going in with a chip on my shoulder.”
Hayes, who is 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds, had 115 tackles at EWU last season. At a private pro day with trainers, he recorded a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, 11-foot broad jump, 39-inch vertical and had 19 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
Shock coach Billy Back was impressed with Hayes.
“He’s a great downhill player. Not much coverage film of him because they rarely threw his way,” Back said. “When I met with him, he was a first-class kid who knew what he wanted to with football and his time after football.”
The past 12 months have been a whirlwind for Hayes, who survived a shooting outside a bar in downtown Spokane last July. He was shot in the neck but returned to football weeks later.
Hayes has also developed a major following on his TikTok social media account, generating 300,000 followers for his humorous videos. He will be in Atlanta next month to collaborate with other successful social media personalities.
Hayes signs with the Spokane Shock months after the franchise signed former EWU receiver Terence Grady, a starter on the Eagles’ national runner-up team in 2018.
Back said he’s also hoping to sign two other former EWU stars in All-American receiver Shaq Hill and All-Big Sky running back Antoine Custer. Hill had brief stints in the NFL and CFL.
Since the Shock’s inception in 2006, several ex-EWU standouts have played at the Spokane Arena, including receiver Raul Vijil, defensive back Isaiah Trufant and quarterback Erik Meyer. Vijil is the only player in Shock history to have his jersey retired.
“My IQ of indoor football is pretty low right now, but I’m going to learn and produce,” Hayes said.
The Shock recently re-signed quarterback and two-time IFL MVP Charles McCollum, offensive lineman Jonah Austin, former Washington State receiver Kyrin Priester, defensive tackle Walter Thomas and defensive back Cedric Poole.
Former University of Utah offensive lineman CJ Poutasi, the 66th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, is another new addition to the Shock.
EWU names 2020 captains
The EWU football team announced four captains for the 2020 season.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Eric Barriere and sixth-year senior linebacker Jack Sendelbach – returning captains – join new captains in fifth-year senior safety Calin Criner and sixth-year senior running back Tamarick Pierce.
Barriere, an All-Big Sky Conference quarterback who finish fifth in Walter Payton Award voting last season, is 16-7 as a starter with 6,300 passing and 1,219 rushing yards.
Pierce has rushed for 1,014 yards and 18 touchdowns with a career average of 6.3 yards a carry. Sendelbach has 159 career tackles, and Criner has 189 career tackles with 10 pass breakups.
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