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Bear Insider Video: Cal Frosh Running Back Ashton Hayes

August 12, 2022
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The early days of fall camp are often a big adjustment for new collegiate athletes who are dealing with a far higher level of scheduling responsibilities almost akin to a full-time job, juggling class, studies, conditioning, practice, and learning the playbook. But frosh running back Ashton Hayes‍ didn’t take the usual route to the next level, having spent the last few years of his life juggling work and family responsibilities along with his football and track duties.

“That’s one thing I pride myself on, as well as my dad,” said Hayes. “I’ve had some family issues. Divorce, separation. My mom had some personal issues that affected the family. So for me, I’ve just had to face a lot of adversity, like you said, throughout my whole life and for me, I feel like it shaped me into the man I am today. I feel like it’s helped me a lot.

“Being able to work for my own money, and purchase my own things feels really good. Everybody knows that first paycheck feeling and being able to spend it knowing that you earned it. So that’s something that really helped me start developing into a man. And now that I’m at Cal with the academic rigor here, I’m just excited to do that. Because as much as I am a football player, I’m a student. I love to learn. I ended high school with a 4.6 gpa weighted. I had 5 AP classes. 

“I really just love school and love football and this is the best place to do that.”

The 6-0/195 frosh had a stellar senior year, leading McQueen High School in Reno to the state championship game, earning Nevada Player of the Year while rushing for 1735 yards and 27 touchdowns on 223 carries, adding three receptions for 56 yards and four kick returns for 257 yards and two touchdowns including a 97-yarder.

In Wednesday's fall camp practice, Hayes got his first real opportunity to shine at Cal, with a run in the final period of practice designed to get young players meaningful 11x11 reps, and he made the most of it with a lightning-quick burst around the edge for a big gain on the last play of practice. 

Did it feel good being able to show what he could do?

“Definitely,” said Hayes. “That devo period -development- is for us younger guys, especially the ones who just got here this summer. So for me to be able to get in there, experience the plays and run them live is really, really helpful and obviously to use my abilities as well is a really invigorating feeling.”

After an official visit to Cal, the speedy Hayes looked like he was going to be a Bear but a subsequent trip to Nebraska on an official visit, his head was turned, vaulting the Huskers into the lead for him, albeit temporarily. Hayes also held a Stanford offer, as well.

“I originally was really, really set on Cal,” said Hayes. “When I got to Nebraska, at that moment in time, I didn’t really decide all the way so things seemed more appealing but after that, with a few coaching changes and things like that, I realized my mistake so I came back to where I belong and now I’m just happy to be a Bear.”

Since enrolling in June and being a part of the program for the past two months, has his experience reaffirmed his decision was correct in the end?

“Absolutely, both academically and through football,” said Hayes. “I feel like I have a good opportunity to help the team as well as to help myself in the classroom with a Cal degree.”

Running backs coach Aristotle Thompson was asked about Hayes’ progress so far and what he needs to focus on.

“Ashton Hayes -good to have the young buck in here,” said Thompson yesterday. “But he’s got to get in the book and spend time on the tape. He’s got to learn and understand the way we play football here at the University of California.”

Hayes noted that while Thompson likes the tempo he plays at, he’s also given him a list of things to work on beyond mastering the playbook and studying film.

“Definitely pass protection,” noted Hayes. “And then just getting the plays down. This is the first time I’ve had a playbook and some of these plays can be complicated. Just getting them down and getting them formulated in my head and being able to run them fast and efficiently is my number one concern right now.”

Before camp, Thompson noted of Hayes: “What we knew about Ashton before coming in is that he could play at a high rate and play fast. They keep raving about how he puts his foot in the dirt and how fast and sudden he is with his change of direction.

“He’s in the offices all the time and pretty much every day is watching film with (’22 frosh QB) Fernando Mendoza in their extra time. It’s really good to see him wanting to learn and grow. And the couple times I was in there, he pulled me aside to get some extra hour of film in. He’s just really energetic about learning and he’s been everything we were hoping he’d be as far as his physical attributes and his talent.”

In the two practices following his interview, Hayes has shown lightning speed on a pair of touchdown runs on consecutive days -one around the edge and one up the gut for 20 yards. The burst shown on the runs were the sort that makes observers stop in their tracks and check their rosters for number 26.

On a roster with several fast players, including several in the running back room, Hayes has the type of football speed that stands out in the crowd.

With Hayes being the newest addition to a talented running back room, he’s trying to soak up all he can from the other backs he’s learning from.

“There’s talent everywhere,” said Hayes. “Everybody brings something else to the table. You have Dame (Damien Moore) who makes great cuts. You have Ott, who has that speed and elusiveness similar to myself. DeLos (DeCarlos Brooks) - really explosive, as well as Chris Street. Ashton (Stredick) is explosive, as well. Then we have two big fullbacks that can come in and make a block when necessary. So when I’m in the film room, I just try and learn from them as much as I can. 

“When we’re up in the meeting room, it gets confusing sometimes but they help me push through it, as well as Coach AT. So I’m just happy to be in my position.”

In addition to his running back responsibilities, the speedy Hayes looks to see extensive duty on special teams this season.

“They have me on every special teams list right now,” said Hayes. “I’m going to make sure I’m on those rosters, helping the team any way that I can, whether that’s at running back or special teams.”

Might his duties include being a punt or kick returner, where he’s able to take advantage of his acceleration and athleticism?

“Probably kick return but I’m not sure yet because those depth charts haven’t come out yet,” said Hayes. “I’ll be excited if I get the opportunity.”

Other stories:

Fall Camp Day 7 Report

Bears Add 2nd Offensive Recruit in TE Marshall

Discussion from...

Bear Insider Video: Cal Frosh Running Back Ashton Hayes

2,162 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by upsetof86
calumnus
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Another great kid to root for.

Musgrave definitely has some weapons and speed to work with. Hopefully we see some improvement in special teams as well.

Go Bears!
GivemTheAxe
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calumnus said:

Another great kid to root for.

Musgrave definitely has some weapons and speed to work with. Hopefully we see some improvement in special teams as well.

Go Bears!

Here's hoping that there is adequate blocking for the runners
calumnus
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GivemTheAxe said:

calumnus said:

Another great kid to root for.

Musgrave definitely has some weapons and speed to work with. Hopefully we see some improvement in special teams as well.

Go Bears!

Here's hoping that there is adequate blocking for the runners


Here is hoping we use our TEs and use all this speed to run outside the tackles, mixed in with play action passing.
OneKeg
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Any chance of him being a kickoff return man and/or gunner on punts for Cal?

Edited to add, I see he did mention kick returns at the end.
upsetof86
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Sounds like Hayes and Mendoza are going to move up the depth chart very quickly. I think I remember Jhavid as a gunner on ST his frosh year making an impact there.
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