My Moment Of Truth

By Caroline V. Clarke, Wynton Marsalis by Sonja D. Brown

to George Webster’s. “I didn’t know much about Webster, but I knew my college coach had a plaque of him on his wall, which said Greatest College Player of All Time. I couldn’t believe my locker was right next to his.” But Webster was already ten years into his pro career, and one day, late in the season, Haynes came in to find Webster’s locker empty. The greatest college player of all time had been cut from the team. “I thought there’d be a big press conference,” says Haynes, his voice still laced with disbelief. “I thought the coaches and players would make a big deal over it. But there was just a brief mention of it at the bottom of somebody’s column in the paper. No press conference, no big announcement — nobody said or did anything. I thought, ‘Wow. That’s the way the greatest college player of all time goes out?’ I knew then I had to go back to school; I had to have something that no one could take away from me.”

Haynes went back to ASU to pursue his degree in finance, but not before getting another rude awakening — finding out how long it would take to get it. “I went to talk to this guidance counselor, and when he told me how many credits I still needed, my eyes just welled up. As a college freshman, I had made the dean’s list. But as my commitments to football and track grew, I took lighter loads until I was taking the minimum number of credits I needed to remain eligible to participate in college athletics. I couldn’t believe I had been so naïve [about my studies] but I still wanted [my degree]. So I started taking courses in the off-season, some even during the season. And I did a few internships in finance, which I really enjoyed. I even started thinking about going to Harvard Business School. I went back [for my bachelor's] in ’77 and didn’t get my degree until ’82. When I got it, I thought, ‘No one can take this away from me. I deserved it, I worked hard for it, and I’ll always have it.’ It didn’t just improve my prospects for life after football, it improved my self-image.”

In a profession where the average career lasts only three and a half years, Haynes went on to have a long and impressive one, ultimately joining the Los Angeles Raiders, and winning the 1983 Super Bowl before retiring at age 37 in 1991. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. When he retired, despite his early wake-up call with Webster, he did so grudgingly and without the assistance he offers pro football players today as head of a program designed to help them through such transitions.

Haynes began doing sports broadcasting and helped launch a golf tour for pro athletes. The latter led to a job as global licensing manager, and then vice president of recreational golf development, for the

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