Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Close ties bind coaches

Hayes brothers, Lewis bring hard-working roots to Bengals

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Defensive line coach Jay Hayes (left) and his brother, tight end coach Jonathan Hayes, watch practice at training camp in Georgetown.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Florence Joy Hayes is happy. Heck, all of First Baptist Church in McDonald, Pa., is happy.

For the first time, two of Florence Joy's sons, Jay and Jonathan Hayes, are on the same team as Bengals assistant coaches. What's better yet for folks in Washington and Allegheny counties is the Hayes brothers are working for Marvin Lewis, another First Baptist product.

"It's so exciting," Florence Joy Hayes said Monday. "I just wish my husband were here to see it. It would make him so happy. He took such an interest in the boys' lives."

Jewett Hayes died last fall at 72. He had been diagnosed with cancer. Lewis, then defensive coordinator for the Redskins, came up from Washington. Jewett Hayes had taught him to swim.

Where previous Bengals coaching staffs had been splintered - there was dissension on both sides of the ball in recent years - Lewis has assembled a tight-knit group. Nine of his 15 assistants are new to the Bengals.

It gets no closer than Lewis and the Hayes brothers. Their great grandparents were two of the six founding families at First Baptist in 1886.

"You want to see how the people react on and off the field," Lewis said. "This can be a job of high anxiety. And you've got to be able to handle it day in and day out, and work with each other and respect each other.

"You don't have to always agree, but when we come out of something, that is our way, and we've all got to get on board and speak it the same way."

There was no nepotism involved in their hiring. Too much is at stake.

"What binds all three of us is the work ethic we grew up around," said Jonathan Hayes, the Bengals tight ends coach who had coached tight ends and special teams at the University of Oklahoma for the past four years.

"Obviously, we've been friends forever, but that has nothing to do with this. If we weren't capable people at doing this, he wouldn't have brought us in."

Jay Hayes coaches the defensive line. He worked as Vikings special teams coach last year and Steelers special teams coach the previous three seasons.

Jay (South Fayette) played against Lewis (Fort Cherry) in high school. Lewis was a year older. Jonathan is two years younger than Jay.

The three played playground basketball. They boxed in the boys club that church elders started in the First Baptist basement. They went together on swim outings to the University of Pittsburgh pool.

"Dad really believed that sports would keep us focused, keep us out of trouble, keep your idle time (at a minimum)," Jay said.

Jay, at 6-feet-6, and Jonathan, only an inch shorter, cut large figures on the training camp practice field. With booming voices, they each can be heard, too.

They got the volume from Jewett, who was a parole board supervisor. They inherited their coaching instincts from Florence Joy, a retired second-grade teacher who always was prepared and always had a plan. The height, they got from both sides. Dad was 6-4 and played basketball at Virginia Union. Mom is 5-10 and sang in the school choir. (There is a third son, Jeff, 46, who is 6-5 and works in sales near Pittsburgh.)

Despite the focus on sports in the Hayes household, education was the priority.

Jay, who played college football at Idaho, remembers the 6 a.m. Pacific Time calls he would receive from his father in Pennsylvania.

"The first thing he would say is, 'Boy, how are your lessons? You up? You studying? What are you doing?' "

Jay later played two years as a defensive end in the USFL.

Jonathan went to Iowa, where he was a teammate of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Jonathan was a second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs as a tight end in 1985 and went on to play 12 years in the NFL. He played in three AFC Championship games with the Chiefs and Steelers and played in Super Bowl XXX for his hometown team.

In summer 1994, Jonathan, Jay and Marvin were united for the first time in Steelers camp. Jonathan was a first-year tight end. Jay was participating in the NFL's minority coaching fellowship program, and Lewis was Steelers linebackers coach.

They're reunited in Cincinnati, but the influences of First Baptist and their parents are never far away.

"Dad believed in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay," Jonathan said. "That's something you have to make (players) understand."

Said Lewis of the Hayes brothers: "They have always appreciated hard work. They grew up in a working environment. They know right from wrong. They know how to talk and deal with people. And that's the key to this game."


E-mail mcurnutte@enquirer.com

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