ATHENS — When first talking to Athens High School senior Garrett Hayes, you wouldn’t get the impression that he’s one of the top high school football players in the country.
Hayes presents himself as a normal, hard-working young man from East Texas.
And according to his head coach Zac Harrell, that’s basically who he is.
“He’s one of the most humble kids I’ve been around,” Harrell said. “And to be honest, he doesn’t like the attention. He doesn’t like it to be about him. He’s a team-first guy.”
Once you see Hayes, though, with his 6-5, 292-pound frame, it’s easy to quickly realize why Hayes is one of the most sought-after offensive tackles in the nation.
On Thursday, Hayes was presented with his jersey for the All-American Bowl during a pep rally in the Athens High School gymnasium.
The All-American Bowl will be played Jan. 4, 2020, at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Current and former NFL standouts Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Luck, Joe Thomas, Palestine’s Adrian Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott have all participated in the event.
Now, Hayes — a four-star recruit who is ranked as the No. 5 offensive tackle in the country in the Class of 2020 — will be added to that list.
“It’s a huge honor, and I’m really excited about it,” Hayes said. “It’s a blessing, and I can’t wait to play in the game.”
“I’ve been coaching 15 years and been around the game my whole life, and I’ve never coached or played with a player who played in this game, so this is a huge honor for Garrett,” Harrell said. “And there’s not anyone more deserving than Garrett.”
When Hayes was presented his jersey, he made sure to thank his teammates, coaches, family and fellow classmates.
“Being an All-American is an awesome accomplishment, but it’s not about me,” Hayes said.
“It’s about everyone, and that includes y’all, y’all, y’all and y’all too,” he concluded as he pointed to different groups of people in the gym.
In a recent win over Quinlan Ford, Hayes had 15 pancakes, two knockdowns and 98 percent effort for an offense that rushed for 382 yards.
“When you watch his tape, he plays so hard and relentless,” Harrell said. “With his uniqueness of his size and speed, I haven’t coached an athlete that possesses his physical traits that are that big and strong as he is but can also run like him. To play as hard as he does with those physical traits makes him probably the best high school football player I’ve ever coached.”
Hayes has numerous offers including Arkansas, TCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Baylor, Florida State, Illinois, Nebraska and Oregon.
Hayes doesn’t like to speak about the recruiting process but did say that he has a day in mind when he plans to make his decision.
Hayes and the Hornets will host Crandall at 7:30 p.m. Friday to close the regular season.