RECRUITING: Like father, RB Hayden can run

By: Richard Davenport Richard Davenport's Twitter account
Published: Tuesday, July 12, 2016
Running back Chase Hayden
Running back Chase Hayden

BEAVERTON, ORE. -- Aaron Hayden, the father of Arkansas running back target Chase Hayden, coached him during youth football and knew early his son had a chance to be a special player.

The older Hayden played running back for Tennessee from 1992-1994 and was a fourth-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 1995. He played two seasons for the Chargers and one each with Green Bay and Philadelphia.

Chase was 9 when Aaron Hayden coached his pee-wee team, and it was then he noticed his son having special talents.

"At that age, you could still stand on the field," Aaron Hayden said. "I would literally say make that cut, OK, make that cut, all right burst, get away and he would do everything like I had a joystick in my hand."

Hayden, 5-11, 185 pounds, 4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash, of Collierville (Tenn.) St. George's Independent School, has grown to be one of the nation's more highly regarded prospects. He shined at The Opening at Nike headquarters and likely helped his stock on the national scene.

His parents and two younger brothers accompanied him to Oregon. Aaron Hayden attributes Chase's footwork and vision for making him the player that he is today.

"I think that's one thing that separates elite running backs, and that's your feet and your eyes," Aaron said.

Aaron Hayden said his son's approach to the game and competitiveness have been strong assets.

"He understands the work you do behind close doors before you actually go out and compete in an event or in a game," Aaron Hayden said. "He's one of those kids that's probably thinking 4 or 5 years down the line of what he wants to accomplish."

Aaron Hayden said he noticed his son's competitive streak from the time Chase played flag football and was on a team where the coach didn't see him as a running back.

That coach had to miss a game because of his work schedule, and the new coach put Chase in at running back and he scored a touchdown on his first run.

"So the last three games he started running the ball," Aaron Hayden said.

Aaron Hayden coached Chase's flag football team the next year and went against Chase's previous coach, the one that didn't give him the opportunity to run the ball.

Aaron said Chase scored about eight touchdowns.

"He said 'You trying to prove a point,' " Aaron Hayden said of Chase's previous coach. "I said 'No, Chase is really trying to prove a point because he came back and told me 'Do not take me out and keep letting me run the ball because this guy wouldn't let me run the ball.' "

Years later, the coach realizes he was wrong.

"I see that guy now and he'll say 'I'm probably the only coach that never gave Chase Hayden the ball,' " Aaron said.

Chase Hayden and his parents visited Arkansas on June 23 and he named the Razorbacks his leader out of numerous scholarship offers from schools like Tennessee, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, Missouri, Louisville and others. The Gamecocks and the Wolverines are others finalists.

Aaron Hayden, like his son, was impressed with Arkansas and Coach Bret Bielema. Aaron Haden said Bielema reminds him of former Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer.

"You look for a fit for your kid, I'm all about fit," Aaron said. "I love the University of Tennessee and will always love the University of Tennessee, but I look for what's the best fit for Chase and Coach B reminds me a lot of Coach Fulmer. That's the reason I left Detroit and went to Tennessee was just because he was honest and very caring and very straight-forward and very down-to-earth and I get the same read from Coach B."

The Haydens have visited numerous schools, but Aaron said Arkansas' student-athlete development program stood out.

"There's been two places I've been where I've been impressed with the student-athlete off-the-field setup or the services and it's been Notre Dame and it's been Arkansas," said Aaron, who also visited Arkansas for the spring game with Chase. "They're talking about life after football and that's what I most care about."

Chase, who also plays basketball, averaged 23.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 5 assists and was named Mr. Basketball in Tennessee for Class 2A.

The Haydens met with basketball assistant Scotty Thurman on their most recent trip to Fayetteville and talked about the possibility of Chase being a two-sport athlete at Arkansas.

The Haydens also heard about the opportunities Razorbacks have after their playing days are over.

"Scotty Thurman talked about how if you get there and take care of what you have to take care of academically and keep your nose clean, the community takes care of their athletes," Aaron said.

E-mail Richard Davenport at

Sports on 07/12/2016


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