November 29, 2022

Making the most of an opportunity; Hayes fulfills dream of playing Division I Football

Manhattan, Kan. (westernkansasnews.com)–Scott City has seen it’s share of athletes contribute at a high level for Division I programs over time. That includes four in the past 10 years featuring Guy Miller at Colorado State, who played along the definsive line for the Rams where his play landed him on All-Mountain West Conference teams, Ron Baker who is in his final year of a stellar career for the Wichita State Shockers, and Colborn Couchman, who just earned a scholarship for his great special teams play before the start of his junior season for K-State. Add Luke Hayes to the list, who has started 24 straight games at right guard, and will have one more game in his collegiate career for Kansas State at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl January 2 in Memphis against Arkansas. 

The dream to play Division I Football started in Scott City for Hayes, where he played for a football program that won four league titles, three district crowns and a 42-5 record over that span from 2008-2011. He earned All-State Honorable Mention honors at tight end his senior season in Class 3A, after also playing defensive end, where he was a force as well. Add into the mix of his high school career where Hayes was a three time state medalist in wrestling, two of those medals gold, capped off by an undefeated state title in 2012 at 285 pounds in Class 3-2-1A, helping the Beavers win the team state championship. 

Playing in a family-type atmosphere hasn’t been unusual for Hayes. It started at Scott City, and transitioned to Butler Community College in El Dorado. Hayes cited that the program at Butler had an all-Kansas line the day he signed his letter of intent for the Grizzlies. The biggest transition while at Butler was the move in positions. Hayes went from being a tight end to moving to left tackle, where he was part of a program that played for the NJCAA National Championship in 2012, and ended sixth in the rankings in 2013, as the Grizzlies had a 20-3 record.

That’s where Hayes’ dreams of playing Division I football became a reality. His sophomore seasons play was good enough to earn him First Team All-Jayhawk Conference and Second Team All-American NJCAA honors. In addition to his good play that reaped the honors, several Power 5 schools offered him a scholarship. Among those included Big 12 teams of Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia, as well as Arizona, Kentucky, Michigan State, and N.C. State. After an official visit to Kansas State in October of 2013, Hayes decided to commit to the Wildcats, a move that would keep him close to home. 

After transferring to Kansas State in December of 2013, Hayes got an early jump in spring practices in learning a new system. After working at left tacklet in spring practices, little did he know that he would make a move along the front. Under Bill Snyder, offensive lineman practice at every position to familiarize them with how the system works. Luke would move to right guard, a position he would transition into 24 consecutive starts that began in the second game of the 2014 season at Iowa State. Just like at Butler, that meant an all-Kansas line for the Wildcats when Hayes made 12 straight starts at right guard.

Following a 9-4 season in 2014, the 2015 season has been a roller coaster of a season. After starting the year at 3-0, the Wildcats lost six straight. In those six losses, K-State was in every game but one. Then a three-game winning streak at the end pushed the Cats into bowl eligibility. It was the “family” attitude kept the team together during the season that saw a series of key injuries throughout. The key position that was felt the most was at quarterback. The Wildcats won on Senior Day in a thriller 24-23, as Hayes and 17 other seniors won their final game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Saturday’s win against West Virginia saw the Wildcats move Kody Cook to quarterback from wide recevier. Cook was the fifth string quarterback for the team. That’s position that has been so thin that even Coach Snyder joked that Hayes was next in line to be quarterback in the postgame press confrence. 

There’s one more game left in the season, and perhaps in the career for Luke. As for a shot at the NFL, it is possible if the opportunity presents itself says Hayes. After football, Hayes plans on graduating in May with a major in kinesiology with a preference in exercise physiology. 

Hayes has indeed added another chapter to the story of a western Kansas and Scott City native who’s lived out a dream of playing college sports.

Luke Hayes after Saturday’s win against West Virginia