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Michigan 2018 signee Ryan Hayes is more than just a talented athlete.

Michigan’s Ryan Hayes has talents that are out of this world

Land of 10 has embarked on a series of “Next Generation” articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Michigan reporters Rachel Lenzi and Kevin Goheen will introduce the Michigan fan base to the newest Wolverines. In this edition, we feature tight end Ryan Hayes.


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — NASA sent an experiment he helped create into space.

He mentors special-needs students.

Ryan Hayes was more than just a three-sport star at Traverse West High School, although his athletic prowess receives the most attention. He was always the biggest kid in his class, and he gravitated to sports at an early age.

“Ryan naturally excelled at any sport he played,” said Sue Arthur, Hayes’ mother. “He played soccer, he ran track, basketball, baseball, football. He would have loved to play hockey if he could, lacrosse if he could, but there’s only so much time in the day. He was attracted to different sports.”

That shouldn’t be surprising. His mother was a basketball standout at Central Michigan University; she is in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, and her No. 22 is retired. Mike Hayes, Ryan’s father, played offensive line for the Chippewas.

Ryan Hayes played football, basketball and baseball at TC West, earning all-state honors in football and basketball. He signed with Michigan as a member of its 2018 freshman football class last December. He enters the program as a tight end, but he could end up playing tackle before his career in Ann Arbor is complete.

Like his mother and father, Hayes’ talents go beyond the field.

A helping friend

Mike is a psychologist with a practice in Traverse City. Sue earned her doctorate in physical therapy and works for the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District.

“She goes to different schools as a physical therapist and she works with special-needs kids, so I’ve always been comfortable [in that environment],” Ryan said.

The Traverse Bay district offers classes for students with autism, including at TC West. Ryan signed up to be a mentor and quickly became friends with one student in particular, Joseph Olson.

“It’s more about hanging out with them,” Ryan said. “Partner peering. It’s been awesome. I was a little nervous going in, but it became my favorite class and I’m really going to miss Joseph.”

Said Sue: “Ryan, for being such a big guy, he’s really a soft-spoken, kind-hearted kid, which is what I love about him. I think [mentoring] has been pretty impactful in his world. I think I could see him being in a profession that’s a helping profession.”

Up in space

Hayes can include an interesting line on his résumé: Helped create and conduct zero-gravity experiment for NASA.

Michigan 2018 signee Ryan Hayes, second to right, and partners Hayden Holmes, Sam Church and Robbie Lohr (left to right) created an experiment that NASA sent to the International Space Station. (NCESSE/courtesy)

Hayes partnered with classmates Robbie Lohr, Hayden Holmes and Sam Church as sophomores to develop an experiment to test the effects of zero gravity on algae growth. NASA holds an annual contest through the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program and National Center for Earth and Space Science Education to choose student experiments for the International Space Station.

His group’s experiment was one of 21 experiments selected out of 2,466 national entrants and went to the International Space Station in February 2017.

The experiment was specifically on blue-green algae, which produces hydrogen and oxygen, and would be beneficial in long-term space missions.

It actually did grow more in space,” Hayes said.

The experiment had to be contained in a tube that was approximately 8 inches long. Astronauts on the ISS conducted experiments in space, while the student group did the same on Earth.

“It had to be really simple,” Hayes said. “All you had to do was open a clamp and shake it. We did it down here, they did it up there and then they sent it back to us.”

‘He’s way too big of a threat’

Hayes didn’t need much convincing that Michigan was the place for him. He was deciding among the Wolverines, Notre Dame and Michigan State, but his first visit to Ann Arbor and first face-to-face meeting with coach Jim Harbaugh was all it took. Harbaugh loves multi-sport athletes, and Hayes is a throwback to days when athletes weren’t as specialized.

“You never know what you’re going to get with Coach Harbaugh until you meet him, but he was a really great guy,” Hayes said. “He was really genuine and really a nice guy. He told me everything straight. It was a long conversation, but a good one.

“That was the final thing that sold me.”

Hayes was rated a 4-star prospect by the 247Sports composite and ranked the No. 5 player in Michigan. He is 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, with a frame that can fill out and allow him to play tackle, but coaches at West said he was too good of an athlete to use on the line.

“He’s way too big of a threat,” said Tim Wooer, Hayes’ coach at TC West who resigned after last season to return to his alma mater of Kingsley. “That’s a waste of his athletic ability at the high school level at tackle.”

Hayes showed that athleticism in basketball. He was honorable mention all-state, averaging 16.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists, leading West to the regional finals.

Wooer calls Hayes a “carbon copy” of TC West alumnus Jake Fisher, who went from tight end in high school to starting tackle at Oregon to second-round draft pick and starting right tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I would say that Ryan is a touch more athletic than Jake was at this stage, but it’s tough to tell,” Wooer said. “They’re similar. They’re both good basketball players, they’re both good-sized from a frame standpoint, they’re both very athletic. Jake was a freak in high school, too.”

Hayes caught 24 passes for 515 yards and 5 touchdowns as senior, 20 passes for 311 yards as a junior. He also made 26 tackles as a defensive end, with 6 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Hayes was named first-team all-state in Division 1-2 by the Associated Press as a tight end, and to the all-division all-state Dream Teams of the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News as a defensive lineman.

“When he was on defense, I was supposed to be making adjustments for the offense. I wasn’t supposed to watch, but it was hard not to a lot of times,” said Mike Hayes, who coached the offensive line for Wooer at West. “It was really fun. We are a good-sized high school and play good competition, and he was a dominant player on both sides of the ball.”

Reel one in

Ryan Hayes has a quiet demeanor. He’s not much into social media. The only reason he set up a Twitter account was to contact college coaches early in his recruiting process. He doesn’t spend time on Facebook, although he said he will peruse Instagram and Snapchat.

He also likes the outdoors. John Arthur, his stepfather, has family property in Canada where Hayes has spent a lot of time.

“It’s peaceful, and it’s on the water,” Hayes said. “I love the water, and there are a lot of cool places. It’s fun. It’s not as fun if you don’t catch stuff, but it sure is fun reeling in a big one.”

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