TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The comparisons of 2018 Michigan commit Ryan Hayes to Jake Fisher are natural. Hayes accepts them, even welcomes them, but he doesn’t dwell on them. If Hayes’ path from Traverse City (Mich.) West High School to Michigan and beyond compares favorably to how things turned out for Fisher, a West alum who is projected to be the Cincinnati Bengals’ starting right tackle, Hayes will have no complaints at all.
“I think they’re true, but I don’t look at them too hard,” said Hayes, as he prepared for the final practice before his team’s season-opener Thursday night at Midland. “Watching Jake, I could see myself ending up like him, but I don’t think about it too much.”
Hayes is a 6-foot-7, 252-pound, tight end and defensive end for West, who also excels at basketball and baseball. West coach Tim Wooer calls Hayes a “carbon copy” of Fisher, who originally committed to Michigan under Rich Rodriguez but changed his mind when Brady Hoke was hired. Fisher went to Oregon, helping the Ducks to the 2014 national title game against Ohio State.
The Bengals selected Fisher in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and have used him as an extra tight end multiple times in his first two seasons. He owns a 31-yard reception, and when H-back Ryan Hewitt was hurt late in the 2015 season, the Bengals used Fisher in that role.
“I’m happy for him,” Fisher said. “Love to see younger guys have success through the same roots I have. I wish him the best.”
While the two players don’t know each other, they are connected. Wooer has coached both of them, as has Mike Hayes, Ryan’s father, as the West offensive line coach.
“Mentally, both kids are serious and focused athletes,” said Mike Hayes. “I think both of their lives are about competing and being immersed in their sport. They both play with a little chip on their shoulders, and they’re mentally tough kids.”
Ryan said Michigan has told him he can come into next season as a tight end, but the long-term projection is he could end up playing offensive tackle. He was recruited by tight ends/offensive tackles coach and run game coordinator Greg Frey, who has a history with the Hayes family. Frey attempted to recruit Ryan’s older brother, Connor, in 2014 when Frey was an assistant at Indiana. Although Connor chose Pittsburgh, that relationship was beneficial in Ryan’s decision.
Ryan took visits to Michigan State, Notre Dame and Michigan during spring break this year.
“Michigan was the last trip,” Ryan said. “Once I took that trip, I just knew it would be Michigan. Before that, I didn’t think I would go to Michigan. I didn’t think much of it. I thought I’d go visit just because it was a good opportunity, but I didn’t think I’d actually go there.”
Watching practice and meeting again with Frey as well as head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Tim Drevno changed his perspective.
“I really liked Ann Arbor and the coaches a lot,” Ryan said. “Coach Frey, Coach Harbaugh, Coach Drevno. They just seemed like themselves. I liked their personalities and how they coached. I saw practice and I really liked it.”
Maybe if Harbaugh had been hired as coach in 2011, Fisher wouldn’t have changed his mind.
“You can’t deny the fact he is a great coach, has a great staff and they have had a lot of success,” Fisher said. “That’s hard to pass up, especially in your home state.”
Mike Hayes played football at Central Michigan. Sue Hayes is a CMU Hall of Fame member for her exploits in basketball.
Ryan’s excellence in three sports shouldn’t be a surprise. He said he plans on signing his National Letter of Intent in December when the NCAA’s new early period is instituted. Ryan will not be an early enrollee.
“I’m going to continue to play basketball and baseball,” Hayes said. “It helps physically and being in shape all the time. I think it really helps with my competitiveness. You’re competing all year.”