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Bill HayesBill Hayes’ football players haven’t put on uniforms at Winston-Salem State and N.C. A&T for a long time, but they haven’t stopped playing for him.

The playing surface at Bowman Gray Stadium will be named Bill Hayes Field in honor of the man who coached both schools to a combined six conference titles and 195 victories in his legendary career. WSSU has played its games at the city-owned field, which sits a few hundred yards from campus, since the 1940s.

The Winston-Salem City Council voted for the naming unanimously Monday night.

“This is something all of us former players have pushed for and came together for, and now it’s a reality,” said Donald Evans, a former NFL player who played for WSSU. “And what says the most about Coach Hayes is that players from A&T and WSSU came together as one to get this done.”

A bronze statue near the stadium fieldhouse will honor Hayes, 78, thanks to $130,000 already raised by former players and longtime friends.

“I was very glad to support the naming of the field house for Coach Hayes,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said. “He is a treasure not only for Winston-Salem but also nationally as well. It is appropriate that his legacy will be memorialized close to the football field where he excelled and touched the lives of so many young athletes.”

Hayes, who grew up in Durham a few football fields away from N.C. Central, where he played football and graduated, said he is overwhelmed by what his players have done for him.

“It is times like this that causes me to reflect on the time as a kid that I was in bed fighting polio,” said Hayes, a member of multiple halls of fame including the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. “I promised God that if he let me walk, one day I would run and jump. And if he let me run and jump, I would go hard and do something special with my life.”

Hayes did do something special through football, guiding countless young men as a college coach, first as an assistant at Wake Forest in the mid-1970s and then as the highly successful head coach at WSSU and N.C. A&T.

“There are so many of us who played for him and learned from him, but it wasn’t just about football,” said Evans, who was WSSU’s highest-drafted NFL player, second round, by the Los Angeles Rams in 1987. “Coach Hayes came into our lives for a reason, and we wanted this to happen while he was still around and still with us.”

Not only is the fundraising campaign geared for the statue’s construction and maintenance, a Carolyn and Bill Hayes Scholarship is being developed.

“The response has been great and we’ve put a lot of effort into getting this done, but the first step was seeking the approval of the city of Winston-Salem and we thank them for seeing our vision,” Evans said.

Evans said that WSSU chancellor Elwood Robinson and others at the school supported the naming of the field.

“We hope that this will be done this fall, so we’ll sort out the details a little later,” Evans said.

Evans said what makes this a bigger deal is how former Aggies have also contributed to the cause. Maseo Bolin, a N.C. A&T Hall of Fame member who played quarterback for Hayes from 1991 through 1995, agreed.

“When I was at N.C. A&T I heard all the stories about those great teams at Winston and to be in the same room with them at the dinner in May was one of the reasons this has come about,” Bolin said. “A lot of us who played for him at N.C. A&T are all in because it’s a chance to honor the man that changed a lot of our lives.”

Hayes coached at North Forsyth but was hired at Wake Forest as its first Black assistant football coach before moving across town in 1975 to coach the Rams.

Hayes’ program at A&T claimed HBCU national championships in 1990 and ’99 and MEAC titles in 1991, ’92 and ’99. In his time at WSSU, he transformed a moribund program into a Division II powerhouse, winning CIAA titles in 1977, ’78 and ’87. His teams went 195-104-2 from 1976 through 2002.

His 1977 and ’78 teams, both unbeaten, are considered two of the best teams in CIAA history.

After his coaching days, Hayes became an athletics director at N.C. Central, Florida A&M and then at WSSU, where in 2012 the Rams got to the Division II national championship game where they lost but finished 14-1. Hayes hand-picked a young coach named Connell Maynor in 2010 as the program soared with Hayes as AD.

A dinner at Winston-Salem’s Maple Chase Golf & Country Club in May attended by some of the best Aggies and Rams to play for the coach sparked the idea to honor Hayes. The coach became emotional that night, saying, “These are my guys.”

His “guys” have helped the ol’ ball coach win another game.

~journalnow.com

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