The love for the game is ideal for a player of any sport that is looking to take their game to another level. In Christian Haynes’ case, his love for football is due, in part, to his involvement in the game from a very young age. The knowledge he’s been able to gain over the years is something he believes will only help as he arrives at UConn.
“I started football when I was five, tackle football when I was six,” he said over the phone on Friday evening. “I love the game. I just love having fun on the field against different competitors. A lot of people that I grew up with are in Power 5 schools. Playing with them and playing against them was great. Now that I’m here, we’re playing all together at this level. It’s just a big blessing. Playing so much has improved my football IQ. I feel like I know a lot about the game that others don’t because I’ve been playing since I was young.”
It took a bit for UConn to offer Haynes, an offensive lineman from Bowie, Maryland, but he was on the Huskies radar throughout the entire process.
“UConn was always a part of the recruiting trail,” he said. “They offered me late, but they always kept in touch with me. Coach Cox wanted me to come up for Junior Day last spring, but I wasn’t able to get up for that or for camp. They used my junior tape and Coach Edsall evaluated all my games, which led to the offer.”
Haynes was able to make his official visit in Storrs and there were a lot of things that he liked. Being around the team and seeing how they interact, having a real togetherness, was a big part of that decision.
“What made it the best fit was hanging with the team and having that team chemistry,” he confirmed. “I just felt like I was at home. From an academic standpoint, it seemed like the best fit for me. The football facility surpassed my expectations. It was beautiful and had a lot of tools to help me get better as an athlete and as a student. The school itself? I felt like it was the only thing in town, which I like so I can focus on academics and football.”
On National Signing Day, Head Coach Randy Edsall raved about the versatility that the 6’4″ 290-lb Haynes will bring to the line.
“He’s a really good kid, a really good athlete,” Edsall said on Wednesday. “He’s a strong, powerful young man who is very versatile. He would have the opportunity to really play any of the spots up front.”
Haynes confirmed he has that ability and there’s a reason for it.
“I’ve learned to play every position on the line,” he said. “I’ve been training to play every position and have played every position throughout my high school career. I’ve played left and right tackle and was left tackle my senior year. This summer, I really got into guard and center during camps and during practice this season. My coach is a former college and NFL player, he emphasized learning how to play every position, so I worked on that.”
That coach played at Kent State and saw some time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Augustus Parrish. He hasn’t helped Haynes only with his skillset, but developing him as a leader, as well.
“When [Coach Parrish] got to the school, he worked not just with myself, but the entire offensive line,” he said. “But he did pull me aside and showed me a few different pointers. He’s shown me a tape from a camp and was telling me some of the different things I could have done on various plays. I won the matchups and won the battle, but with different techniques, I could become a lot better. This whole season he helped me become a more vocal leader and becoming a better offensive lineman as well.”
Asked what the best part of his game was, Haynes didn’t have to hesitate.
“Some of the things I like about my game are my feet, my handwork and my power,” he said. “I’ve been able to develop in different types of offenses. My first year on varsity, we were a great passing team, so we mostly did that. From there, we became a much-more balanced team, so that improved my run game technique and my overall talent as a player.”
Any player that talks about improving their technique is going to be a favorite of Edsall and the rest of Huskies staff. That group really impressed Haynes, which was another reason for his decision.
“Coach Edsall is a real great guy,” he said. “He’s big on academics, which I like. I need somebody that is going to keep me on my head, make sure I’m on track. When Coach G came for a home visit, we were just talking about football and I knew that was the coach I wanted to be coaching me for the next four-to-five years.”
“The first coach I met [during the process] was Coach Cox,” he continued. “He told me a lot of great things and I loved how he was from my area. Coach Dunn, when he came to my school, we were just talking about football. I feel like he’s going to be a great offensive coordinator and he’s going to work us. Everyone else on the official visit was great. I just felt they were great coaches and I felt comfortable being with them.”
On Wednesday, a lot of emotions were running through him, ready to sign at an event at his high school, but an ice storm caused a delay and forced the event to be moved to Thursday. He ended up signing at home with his parents, but was able to hold the event the next day.
“It was a burden coming off my shoulders to get recruiting done, it was very exciting,” he confirmed. “Everything was a real blessing. Signing those papers and saying I’m a UConn Husky now is a real big blessing. Thursday was a lot of fun. My whole team was there, almost the whole school and I just felt a lot of love from my fellow classmates. No one in my school has done this in a long time. The last player that did this here was A.J. Hendy, who Coach Edsall actually coached at Maryland. He was telling me a lot of good things about him and he actually called me and said congratulations. He’s in the NFL now, but before he went back there, he was coaching at my school.”
Athleticism, power, good feet and versatility are all good traits for an offensive lineman. Look for Haynes to get in the mix and potentially be a major part of the unit once he gets settled in with the Huskies.
MATT SCHONVISKY / SITE CREATOR