Archdeacon: 22 years after leaving for the NFL, Central State Hall of Famer again makes good on promise to mom

Credit: Terry Flucas/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Credit: Terry Flucas/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

She cheered him when he was a two-sport star at Southside High School in Muncie, Indiana and she came to all his games at Central State, where he was an All American offensive lineman and his 1992 team won the NAIA national title.

She beamed when he and his championship teammates were celebrated by President Bill Clinton at the White House in 1993 and when he took the field for the Carolina Panthers three years later and again when he was inducted into the Central State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

And yet for Loyce Hill, all of that is prelude to what will take place Saturday morning at the Dayton Convention Center.

That’s when her son, Brandon Hayes – now 44 and an officer with Montgomery County Adult Probation – will walk across the graduation stage and get his master’s degree from Central State.

“I think I’ll be more proud of him for that than anything,” she said a few evenings ago. “I’ll try to hold back the tears, but I don’t know. I’m just so proud of this. When he left to go to the NFL, he promised me he’d get his degree one day. And now he’s done just that.”

It’s been a long process since first leaving CSU 22 years ago, but Hayes eventually came back and first got his undergrad degree and then – with the help of then athletics director Theresa Check – he began working on his masters while serving as a volunteer coach with the newly revived Marauders football program that had been disbanded for eight years because of financial difficulties.

“I was just taking one or two classes a year then, but eventually I stopped coaching and became more involved with my (probation) job and grad school kind of fizzled out a little bit,” he said.

“It took me six years, but I finally said, ‘Hey, you put in all this work, let’s go ahead and finish it.’ I was kind of making good on a promise I made to my players, too.

“It had started as a challenge to them. At the time we didn’t have any scholarship money and there was a thin line between classes and football. I told them, ‘Look, you can do both. I’m working full time and basically coaching here full time and I still go to school.

“’You can do whatever you put your mind to.’”

From Tennessee to Central State

Loyce Hill was a single parent who worked 37 years as a nurse at a state institution dealing with epileptic patients and later “certain mental patients,” as well.

Brandon – who had been 9 pounds 11 ounces at birth and grew to 330 pounds at Central State – wasn’t just a massive presence on the athletic fields. He also had a big heart, his mom said.

“I used to bring some of my patients home for dinner,” she said. “Brandon enjoyed talking to them. And to be truthful, I think that’s where he gets some of what he’s doing now. He enjoys helping people.”

Hayes said he knew how hard his mom worked and sacrificed to provide for him and that’s why he chose Central State after the University of Tennessee and some other major schools bypassed him after an initial low score on his SAT exam.

Although he’d eventually retake the test and score well, Tennessee had feared he would not and pulled its scholarship offer. Other D-I powers had shifted their interest from him when he had committed early to the Volunteers.

When CSU offered him a full ride late in the recruiting cycle he accepted and became part of powerhouse program that was coached by Billy Joe and had won another NAIA title the season before he got there.

“We had an all-star team — guys like (quarterback) Henderson Mosley, (running back) Charles Thompson and (defensive end) Hugh Douglas and a lot more talent — and we won the title again in ‘92.

“By the time I’d gotten to my fourth year, I was getting seen a lot, too, because every day I was going against Hugh Douglas in practice and he was getting all kinds of press. He’s a big reason I ended up on a lot of teams’ radar.

“I ended up a free agent, but five or six teams were interested in me. I wanted to go to Dallas — Eric Williams (former CSU lineman) was there and I figured he could help me get on course — but my agent gave me a different thought:

“He said: ‘Look, they just came off of a Super Bowl. Their team is set, I don’t see you going in there and beating out somebody. Your best choice would be Carolina or Jacksonville. Those are new organizations with new coaches. Nobody really has a bond yet. That really would be your best shot’ And it turned out to be a very good idea.”

He signed with the Panthers and after dropping 25 pounds from his CSU days, he played the following 1996 season. Injuries then hampered him and he was released a year later. He ended up with the Indianapolis Colts, but was soon sidelined with a torn calf muscle and, after an injury settlement, his pro career ended.

It was during this time that CSU had mothballed its football program.

“That was really disheartening,” Hayes said. “It was just hard to see. When I was there, everybody knew about Central State football. When someone found out you went there, it was like, ‘You’re the guys who won the titles! The guys who beat that team (Lane College) 101 to nothin’ !’

“All that was one of the reasons I wanted to get involved in coaching here because I wanted to help bring Central State back.”

‘Center of my little world’

Hayes was on the sidelines for the annual CSU spring game 11 days ago. An imposing presence, he stood a few yards beyond the team wearing a black and blue Carolina Panthers windbreaker, a golden Panthers medallion around his neck – ‘My mom got it for me when I went to the NFL,” he said quietly – and on his right hand was the bulky, stone-encrusted national championship ring he had won with the 1992 team.

Working in Dayton and living in the Fairborn area, he said he comes over to Central State when he can.

“Watching them out here today just makes me want to sit down and talk to them,” he said with a bit of a smile. “From an old man’s perspective, I’d just let them know, ‘Hey, take advantage of this out here. It’s not guaranteed. It’s not always going to be here and when it’s done, you’re gonna miss ‘em. The bond you make out here now can carry you a lifetime.’

“At Homecoming every year when I see my old teammates, it’s those bonds that that make us like brothers. I feel it every time I’m here.

“In one way or another, this place has always kind of been the center of my little world. Over the years, a lot of good things have happened to me thanks to Central State.”

And Saturday, says his mom, will be one of the best.

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