The Bayonne Board of Education has appointed Jerome Hayes as the new head football coach at Bayonne High School (BHS). Hayes spoke with the Bayonne Community News about his journey from playing for the Bees to leading the team.
“I am eternally grateful for being selected as the next head football coach in Bayonne,” Hayes said. “I’m very mindful of the proud, rich tradition that we have and I look forward to working extremely hard and bringing a championship product to our town. I’m going to work tirelessly until that happens.”
Bayonne born and raised
Hayes was born and raised in Bayonne. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson Community School in 2001, then from BHS in 2005. During his time at BHS, Hayes played football for the Bees as a running back and linebacker. As a sophomore, he played an important role on the 2002 team to help claim victory in the North I Group IV state championship over Hackensack High School.
After Hayes’ time at BHS, he went on to play ball in college for Penn State University. He was a four-year letterman, continuing to play lineback from 2005 to 2010. Following his run at Penn State, Hayes looked to play for the National Football League (NFL). He ended up playing in the Arena Football League instead.
“I had a couple of workouts with some local NFL teams,” Hayes said “Ultimately, I ended up playing four years in the Arena Football League for the Philadelphia Soul and the Trenton Freedom.”
After four years in the AFL, Hayes opted to shift from focusing on playing football to coaching it.
“Once my body told me it was time to hang up the cleats, I came back home,” Hayes said.
Back to Bayonne
Hayes returned to Bayonne while he went back to school to earn his master’s degree in education, in the meantime having been involved in coaching at Bayonne High School since 2011 as an assistant. Eventually, he became defensive coordinator for then-head coach Rick Rodriguez. This was an important time for Hayes, being able to work with Rodriguez who had coached Hayes when he was in school.
“He’s my mentor,” Hayes said. “We speak daily. He taught me the game from a different perspective. You look at the game differently as a coach then you would as a player. He was gracious enough to show me that way.”
Hayes kept coaching at Bayonne under Rodriguez, as well as under his successor Jason Acera. While at one point he thought about giving up coaching, Hayes was reinvigorated after finding a new coaching gig in West Orange. For the last four seasons, he has been a running back and linebackers coach at West Orange High School under head coach Darnell Grant.
“In our three season together at West Orange, we’ve been in the state semifinals two times,” Hayes said. “So there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m going to try to take some of the culture and some of the ideals and bring that over to Bayonne.”
While it will be hard for Hayes to leave behind a successful program in West Orange, he is beyond ecstatic to return to Bayonne.
A new chapter in his hometown
“I’m really pumped up. I’ve already met with the team, spoken to them several times, been involved in the weight training program. I’m really excited to get after it. We have a pretty tough schedule this year, so I’m looking forward to starting on summer practice.”
Hayes said there is a nice talent pool among the players at BHS already, as well as among the incoming freshmecn. One of those new players will be a familiar face to Hayes, his son Jerome Jr.
“I have a very unique opportunity with this group of incoming freshmen, because my son is a 13-year-old eighth grader and he’ll be coming to the high school next year. He’s played youth sports throughout the town, so I’m very familiar with the names, the faces, and the families and I’m looking forward to coaching them all.”
According to Hayes, he is currently working with the football team during the offseason.
“We’ve already begun phase one of our strength and conditioning program at Bayonne High School,” Hayes said. “We got a pretty good turnout. There are some multi-sport athletes that are participating in other sports, but I look forward to them coming back and joining us as soon as they’re able.”
Hitting the ground running
Hayes said he wants to spare no time in preparing the team for next season, hitting the ground running. He takes the reigns from former head coach Dwayne Williams, whose contract was controversially not renewed after a 4-5 season but has called Hayes a “great guy and great coach.”
“I’ve been going full speed ahead, trying to just immerse myself in this community again and make myself available for everybody,” Hayes said. “I’m really just going to work as hard as humanly possible.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.