Hayes makes 'huge decision,' leaves Vikings for job in Texas

John Cannon, The Frederick News-Post, Md.
·5 min read

Mar. 6—Daryl Hayes has had plenty of memorable moments since being hired as St. John's Catholic Prep's football head coach nearly five years ago.

He guided the Vikings to three MIAA C championships and the 2019 National Association of Christian Athletes Division I title, oversaw the team when it squeezed in an abbreviated 2020 season during the coronavirus pandemic and garnered national attention for continuing to coach from the sidelines after he suffered a heart attack during a game on Nov. 14.

That Nov. 14 game, St. John's season finale, turned out to be Hayes' last game with the Vikings. Hayes is stepping down as St. John's football coach after accepting a job as head football coach at Bishop Gorman Catholic School in Tyler, Texas.

The new coaching job comes in a state where Hayes' son Nate, a St. John's senior, could continue his football career at the collegiate level.

"It is a huge decision," Hayes said. "It's a family situation, my oldest [son] was offered a roster spot as a walk-on at TCU, and it kind of flared up, they had an opening, it's sort of a symbiotic thing, we can be in Texas.

"Originally it was, we can't afford to move, we don't want to move, we love St. John's," he said. "And then they said this is what we have, and there's tuition help for my younger son, Josh [who played football and wrestled at St. John's], and it just worked out."

Aside from helming St. John's football program, compiling a record of 21-23, Hayes coached the school's wrestling team during its inaugural season in 2019-20 (the team didn't compete this school year because of the pandemic), coached track, taught business and served as the school's assistant principal for several years.

"We are losing a coach who cared deeply about his charges and that devotion was rooted in deep faith," St. John's athletic director Pete Strickland said in a release. "We will honor the life-changing work Coach Hayes did here by continuing to build on the excellent Viking football program he nurtured so well."

When Hayes took over St. John's football program in 2016, just 17 players showed up at the initial team meeting.

But the Vikings ended up going 6-4 and winning the MIAA C Conference championship during Hayes' first season. St. John's won MIAA C titles again in 2019 and 2020. In 2019, the Vikings capped their season by rolling to a 55-14 win over the Tennessee Heat, a victory that earned them the National Association of Christian Athletes Division I championship.

"It was a great experience, loved St. John's, loved Coach Strickland, loved the kids, a great academic environment. Dr. [Thomas] Powell [the school's president] took a chance and hired someone outside of Frederick, and it worked out well," Hayes said. "It was a good run, it was exciting, we had some great kids come through, about a dozen of them are playing in college now."

St. John's was the only Frederick County high school football team that played during the fall of 2020. The Vikings got a gratifying win over rival Annapolis Area Christian School before falling 53-0 to Concordia Prep in their final game, which Hayes finished coaching despite suffering a heart attack that apparently happened at halftime.

During the second half, Hayes had chest pains and numbness in his left arm and part of his left leg. Going to a hospital after the game, the 48-year-old Hayes learned the heart attack was caused by a clot that lodged in an artery that connects to his left ventricle.

Stories about how he kept coaching after suffering the in-game heart attack were reported by numerous media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and the New York Post. On Friday, Hayes was quick to point out how dangerous it is for anyone to ignore symptoms he experienced during that game on Nov. 14.

"With chest pain and numbness, go to the hospital right away," he said. "I'm truly blessed that worked out, but in the future, if I feel that kind of pain, in a game or otherwise, I'd probably go to the hospital.

"But when you're focused, in the groove, you love the kids and you love the game and you just want to keep going," he said. "At the time, obviously, I didn't know it was a heart attack ... The good lord was shining on me that day. That could've been it, and it wasn't."

At Bishop Gorman in Tyler, Hayes said he's taking over a program that won two Texas state titles but had fallen on hard times the last couple of years. He praised the vision of the school's athletic director and head of the school as well as infrastructure such as the training facility and stadium.

Hayes pointed out that Bishop Gorman has 17 players on its roster, the same number of St. John's players that showed up at a meeting after Hayes took over the Buckeystown school's program.

"The charge is very clear, we have to get the numbers up, get 'em back to winning," Hayes said. "We've been blessed to do that sort of thing at St. John's, and we did at Saint James at Hagerstown, and I did it down at Blue Ridge in Charlottesville.

"I love building, I love bringing numbers and excitement to football programs," he said. "And I think that's what the appeal was when they started talking to me."