Daelin Hayes had been committed to play football at Southern Cal for more than a year when then-coach Steve Sarkisian was suspended early this season.
That was the opening the five-star recruit from Ann Arbor Skyline needed to begin exploring his options.
“That’s when I started to have my doubts a little bit — maybe this is too far away, maybe, with the coaching instability, maybe I shouldn’t go all the way out there,’’ Hayes said. “That’s when I started to lean a little bit more towards Notre Dame.’’
The linebacker leaned all the way to Notre Dame today when, in a Bleacher Report video, he committed to the Fighting Irish and said he will enroll in school in January so he can participate in spring practice.
I am announcing my commitment to... https://t.co/W0QVWel48A— Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_IX) December 10, 2015
One of the biggest factors in Hayes’ decision was Notre Dame’s academic reputation.
“For me, in my situation,’’ he said, “I know football can end just like that.’’
Does he ever. The state’s only 2016 five-star recruit hasn’t played much football in his high school career.
A labrum injury suffered on the third play of the opening game of his sophomore season forced him to miss the remainder of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s season.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder began his junior season at Ventura St. Bonaventure in California, but a custody battle brought him back to Michigan after three games, and his season was over.
His senior season at Skyline ended early in the third game, when he suffered another labrum injury — to his right shoulder, this time — which led to surgery Nov. 17.
“I’m great,’’ he said. “I’ll be cleared for spring ball.’’
Hayes also strongly considered Michigan State and Ohio State and said it was difficult making his final decision.
But playing a part in the decision was a recent conversation with Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith, who recently won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Smith basically told him to forget about football and go where he felt most comfortable.
“That was my ‘ah ha’ moment in the recruiting process,’’ Hayes said. “Being able to reflect on everything and, once I officially took football out of the equation, it seemed like a no-brainer. I believe to make a decision based purely off of athletics is kind is foolish. Why not maximize every opportunity on and off the field that college presents? And in picking that college, I felt that Notre Dame was the best platform to do so.’’
Notre Dame coaches said they will use Hayes in the same manner they used Smith.
“Having that as a platform, almost of what I would do when I came into Notre Dame, was big for me, just having that as an example,’’ he said. “One of the biggest things I wanted to see in my recruitment was, ‘don’t tell me, show me,’ and their track record obviously spoke for itself.’’
Hayes’ father, Derrick Hayes, played basketball at Detroit Mercy. He said he is relieved that he won’t have to travel to California to see his son play college football.
“Committing early, I think that was a little hiccup in the program,’’ he said. “But I think it all came full circle for him. He used to talk about Notre Dame as a freshman, so when it came all back around, I knew it was all meant to be.’’
As soon as Sarkisian was suspended, Hayes visited Notre Dame.
“When I took the visit to Notre Dame, I felt that was an environment where I would fit,’’ he said. “Once the coaching situation did what it did, I knew that was God telling me this is where I needed to be.’’