If you type the words “Hobnail Boot” in Google search, this link appears:
Fans of University of Georgia football not only have the above play committed to memory, they can tell you exactly where they were, and what they were doing when P-44 Haynes, as we later learned it was called, was skillfully executed. When listing iconic plays in Georgia football history, this one is near the top. And while credit should go to the entire team for keeping UGA in the game with only nine seconds left, there are two players who are directly responsible for the come-from-behind win: David Greene, Georgia’s quarterback, and Verron Haynes, the fullback. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten to know the latter at bit via Twitter. Verron Haynes kindly agreed to answer some questions for the World According To Jennifer.
First, a little background information on Mr. Haynes. Born in Trinidad in 1979, he later moved to New York and then to Atlanta where he played high school football. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Haynes transferred from Western Kentucky (leaving behind a football scholarship) to walk-on at Georgia, where he beat out several highly recruited players for the tailback spot. Haynes finished his career at Georgia with a rushing average of 5.15 yards per carry, which at the time (2001), was second only to Herschel Walker.
Haynes joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002 after being drafted by them in the fifth round. He played for the Steelers for four seasons before suffering a severe knee injury in October of 2006. Haynes spent the rest of 2006, a year in which Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl, rehabbing his injury. The Steelers released, and then re-signed him, in 2007. In six seasons with Pittsburgh Haynes had 174 carries for 738 yards (4.2 average) and three touchdowns. He completed 58 receptions for 429 yards and two touchdowns. In 2009, Haynes returned to the state of Georgia, signing as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons where he played in seven games. Haynes, who is currently a free agent, hopes to play at least one or two more years in the league.
JFL: You were born and spent most of your childhood in Trinidad, yet you managed to join the University of Georgia’s football team as a walk-on. When did you first start playing football?
VH: It was not until my junior year at North Springs High School in Woodstock, GA that I played on an organized team level. My heart was in the sport of basketball. I was also accustomed to playing soccer, the Trinidadian version of football. My father, Ulric “Buggy” Haynes, played on the National Soccer Team for Trinidad and Tobago, so athleticism runs in the family. My first love was basketball, but it was a blessing to excel in football considering I started so late in a sport that most play at a young age.
JFL: Given your lack of experience playing the sport, who, or what, gave you the confidence to try out for a Division 1 program?
VH: My mother and my faith in God served as my sole support team. I was taught to be confident in my abilities so long as I give all my effort. I feel discipline is vital in achieving any goals. I thought it would be no harm in at least believing in myself and trying. One of my favorite quotes is by Michael Jordan, who also shares the same birthday as me; “I can accept failure. What I cannot accept is not trying”.
JFL: I have to bring up the Hobnail Boot play. One of the most memorable, and celebrated plays in Georgia football history. Nine years later, is P-44 Haynes something you get tired of being asked about?
VH: Not at all. I am still humbled and appreciative of my fans to this day. If it were not for them, a lot that we accomplish would not mean as much. The play, P-44 Haynes, opened many doors for me and was great exposure as a college football player striving to play at the national league level. UGA fans are loyal and truly awesome.
JFL: In 2009 you played for the Atlanta Falcons, before that five seasons with the Steelers including 2006 when Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl. Is there a favorite moment, or play, from your time in the NFL?
VH: You have some of the best players who never make it to the Super Bowl let alone win a Super Bowl ring. It was a monumental peak in my career that will always ring supreme in my mind.
JFL: What was it like suiting up in an Atlanta Falcon’s jersey for the first time?
VH: It was a mixture of emotions. I was not only happy to be back in Atlanta where I call home, but it was also my first season back after rehabilitating my knee from a very serious surgery. It was good to be home and even better to be back on the field. The camaraderie and spirit of the game can be addicting so it was good to be back in the mix.
JFL: You’re a dad and your son is playing football. What do you think are the most important things for him to learn about the game, and about competition in general?
VH: I actually preferred, and was hoping, my son would like soccer or baseball since they are less physically damaging and risky sports. I guess it was in his blood. I am proud to assist coaching and be present at his little league games. He plays with heart and has excelled on the field. Faith is always first. We say a prayer before every game. I try to instill a strong faith in my children so they know, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Discipline, never give up or be defeated; winning is a state of mind, and to always have fun. When you no longer enjoy what you do, it is time to move on.
JFL: What is Verron Haynes up to now?
VH: My career is coming close to the curtain call so I am preparing for life after football. While I have enjoyed playing and it has afforded me many great opportunities, it is only one extraordinary phase of my life. It took growth and as I have gotten older and dabbled in acting, coaching, broadcasting and entrepreneurship, I realized I have so much more to offer outside of being an athlete. I am only 31, so God willing, I have a lot more time on my clock to truly leave a legacy.
My foundation, The Verron Haynes Foundation, has always held a very close purpose to my heart with the breast cancer work we are able to do. As I have more time to give with retirement, I want to expand and do more to educate and assist those who have endured breast cancer. That includes the women and their support systems of friends and family. I recently heard of a foundation in Washington, DC called Men Against Breast Cancer. I found it to serve a great purpose of educating men on how to help their wives in getting through breast cancer. I lost my cousin, Kadine, someone who was like a sister, to breast cancer. She was my calm in the storm of my crazy life with football. I confided and trusted her opinions. The day I was drafted, she was one of the only four people I shared that moment with. I learned how valuable life truly is. Kadine was a beautiful women with an incredible spirit and to see her lose a beautiful life in such a hard battle… Cancer doesn’t discriminate against anything including age. My cousin was only 26 when she passed. I know Kadine is looking down on me like an guardian angel and I want to make her proud.
In addition to raising breast cancer awareness, I have started a water sports company in my homeland, Trinidad called The Red Sail. We offer jet skiing, para sailing, etc. I have other entrepreneurial projects in the works as well. I spend as much time with my children, family is very important to me and they grown up so fast I do not want to miss a moment. I am working to launch my first football camp in the Spring/Summer 2011 to spread the knowledge and experience I have with upcoming youth and athletes. I am just living life a day at a time and trying to help in any way I can along the way. I am thankful to have overall good health and a great family.
I want to thank Verron Haynes for taking the time to answer these questions. As anyone who follows him on Twitter can tell you, he is a very gracious individual. For more on the Verron Haynes Foundation contact Jill Binkley at: firstname.lastname@example.org Or, visit the Turning Point website.