FOOTBALL: Unlikely film student takes a chance, makes football team

Staring up at 6-foot-8-inch, 280-pound star defensive end Calais Campbell, is frightening for almost any college football player.

For 5-foot-9-inch, 160-pound sophomore film student Chris Hayes, it’s a nightmare that comes true almost everyday.

That’s because Hayes is a walk-on for the Miami Hurricane football team. He is also one of the smallest guys on the team.

“I had always talked about trying out, and when I got the opportunity I figured the worst they could tell me was ‘no,'” said Hayes, who had never played football in high school.

During the season, practice for Hayes consists of meetings followed by playing on the scout team so the starters can get a feel for what plays the upcoming opponent could run.

Hayes tried out in 2006, his freshman year, as a wide receiver and was one of four players who made the team out of about 30.

“I had the butterflies. I never thought I would make it. I just wanted to get it over with,” said Hayes.

The stupor quickly wore off when Hayes began to wake up at 5 a.m. for mandatory workouts

“Every morning when I wake up I’m like ‘Oh man,’ ” said Hayes, who had yet to play in a game.

Chris learned that being a walk-on was slightly less glamorous than he had originally imagined.

“At practice they treat the walk-ons differently. I know the other guys are the ones who bring in all the money, but sometimes it seems insensitive. But that’s how life goes, you just gotta move on.”

Strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey, one of Chris’ biggest influences, says that the role of the walk-on is crucial to the success of the team.

“The walk-ons help us win,” said Swasey. “Chris had heart, discipline, passion, and showed a lot of effort.”

When Hayes finishes his morning workout, he heads to classes. He is like every other student, except with less time.

“I try to do a lot of my work on Monday afternoon, because we don’t have practice then. I’ve been playing sports all my life, so I’ve gotten pretty good at managing sports and academics.”

Hayes, whose passions have always been sports and movies, knew by eighth grade that he wanted to attend the University of Miami film program.

“I like the School of Communication a lot,” he said. “Dean Grogg has done a great job making it a better school. The technology here is great.”

Hayes hopes that someday he can channel his passion for movies into either directing or screenwriting.

“Writing scripts is a lot of fun. It’s a nice change from the typical essay format that you’re used to writing in,” said Hayes.

But don’t expect an epic on college football walk-ons. He’s had enough of that.

Adam McCormick may be contacted at