November 25, 2013

MVP Profile: Lester Hayes, 1980

Cornerback, Oakland Raiders



Age: 25
4th season in pro football & with Raiders
College: Texas A & M
Height: 6’0”   Weight: 195

Prelude:
Impressed by his hard-hitting style in college, although recognizing that he would be something of a project as a pro defensive back, Hayes was chosen by the Raiders in the fifth round of the 1977 NFL draft. He moved into the starting lineup in his second year and in 1979 received second-team All-AFC recognition from UPI after intercepting seven passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

1980 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Interceptions – 13 [1]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Seattle 10/26
Int. return yards – 273 [1]
Most int. return yards, game – 62 (on 1 int.) vs. Denver 12/1
Int. TDs – 1
Fumble recoveries – 2
Forced fumbles – 0

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 1
Yards – 0
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 1
Points – 6

Postseason: 4 G
Interceptions – 5
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Houston, AFC Wild Card playoff; at Cleveland, AFC Divisional playoff
Int. return yards – 45
Most int. return yards, game – 26 vs. Houston, AFC Wild Card playoff
TDs – 2

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, NEA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Raiders went 11-5 to finish second in the AFC West and qualify for a Wild Card playoff spot while leading the NFL in interceptions (35). Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Houston Oilers (27-7), AFC Divisional playoff over Cleveland Browns (14-12), AFC Championship over San Diego Chargers (34-27), and Super Bowl over Philadelphia Eagles (27-10).

Aftermath:
Hayes had been known for covering himself in the substance stickum, which was banned by the NFL following the ’80 season. The ban seemed to affect his performance as he followed up with only three interceptions in 1981, although Hayes was still chosen for the Pro Bowl and received first-team All-NFL recognition from The Sporting News. Hayes continued to be a fine cover corner and ended up being named to the Pro Bowl five straight times, through 1984, even though he never again approached his high interception total of 1980. In a career that lasted until ’86, all with the Raiders, he had a total of 39 interceptions, which he returned for 572 yards and four TDs, and the team won two Super Bowls along the way.

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MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

2 comments:

  1. One of the greatest shutdown corners to play the game (alongside teammate Mike Haynes, who with him helped strangle the Redskin receivers in Super Bowl XVIII. People say his interceptions dropped because of the stickum ban, but I believe a good bit of it was because teams stopped throwing to his side of the field.

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  2. The stickum ban sure drew a lot of comment at the time, especially when Hayes had so many fewer interceptions. Maybe it affected his style of play, but he most definitely remained an outstanding cover corner. And, of course, opposing quarterbacks were less inclined to challenge him, so I agree that was a factor in his interception totals.

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