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Michael Hayes Fell in Love with West Virginia Despite Interest from Other Major Programs



West Virginia needed a quality kicker and Michael Hayes wanted to be with a Power 5 program. It became a match made in Almost Heaven.

WV Sports Now spoke with the Georgia State transfer kicker about what led him to becoming a Mountaineer and what he brings to the WVU program. Hayes even clears up any speculation over his role since he has experience as both a place kicker and punter, but only one spot is currently open for WVU.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing Power 5 football on a big stage. I love the college town vibe of Morgantown, but there’s more to it than just that. It’s a very unique town with lots thats easy to fall in love with and beautiful there. I was at peace when I got up there and it felt like a perfect new home,” explained Hayes as why he fell in love with West Virginia and decided to transfer to WVU over several other major programs for his final two years of eligibility.

He opened up about his recruitment and his talks with the WVU coaching staff, in particular special teams coach Jeff Koonz and special teams analyst Tony Thompson, the two he credits with recruiting him.

“Love the coaching staff- Coach Koonz and Thompson recruited me when I entered the portal. Love the background knowledge Thompson brings to the table… not a lot of coaches in the country have his knowledge in terms of fundamentals for specialists and knowing what they did wrong with a bad kick and how to correct it by looking at the film,” details Hayes.

As far as his communication with head coach Neal Brown, “I did talk to Coach Brown multiple times throughout my visit this week, as well as today in his office when I told him I was all in, before I left to head back home to SC. Love his cool, calm, and collected demeanor,” Hayes said.

The Florence, South Carolina native, is billed as both a place kicker and punter on the Georgia State team site. While filling mostly punting duties his first two seasons with Georgia State, Hayes converted 11 out of 14 field goal tries in 2022, highlighted by a 51-yarder.

Despite spending more time as a punter than kicker throughout his three years at Georgia State, Hayes is well aware he’s brought in for kick field goals, extra points and kickoffs. The Mountaineers have a void at kicker after Casey Legg made the decision to retire instead of return for one more season. But conversely, Oliver Straw is still on the roster and is coming off a solid freshman season handling punting. Straw averaged 42.5 yards per punt, slightly better than Hayes’ average at Georgia State.

Hayes revealed Arkansas, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Texas Tech showed interest in him once he entered the Transfer Portal.

The addition of Hayes fills a big hole for WVU, and could even be argued as an upgrade in terms of what may constitute field goal range for the offense. Legg was perfect on the season prior to two misses in the home finale against Kansas State, Hayes showed the ability to hit 50-yard kicks and his punting leg offers reason to believe distance won’t be an issue for him.

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