Justice Hayes: "I've learned that you have to grow up real fast, you know? You have to really grow up. This is a man's game, and especially at our position. You have to really be physical while you're out there, and I've learned that since last year."
Question: Have you changed your running style at all?
Justice Hayes: "I mean, it's all instincts, you know? We've all – me, Vincent, Rawls – we all have our own running style; but like I said, for Michigan, we're all expected to run the exact same: run hard, run physical, run through the tackles, get to the end zone."
Question: With the platform and the national spotlight you guys are going to be in playing Alabama, obviously, that's huge for the first game of the year. What does that mean to you?
Justice Hayes: "As a team, we feel that we're supposed to be amongst the elite. We don't look at the ratings and the rankings and all that. We just try to get out there and compete, and the expectation is to win Big Ten championships. That's what we've been instilled to do, so that's what we're looking for."
Question: What do you expect in that first game? Obviously, it's going to be a physical game.
Justice Hayes: "Alabama, they're the defending national champions. I'm pretty sure they're going to respect us as well, and it's going to be a gridiron battle out there."
Sam Webb: Let's talk about last year compared to this year. I've talked to some guys already and they say you look like a different guy running in fall camp this year. So kind of compare the two. How much more comfortable do you feel? How much better do you think you're running?
Justice Hayes: "Well, I have a year under my belt. Spring ball, I felt like I was doing well in spring ball as well. I had a couple injuries, which I will not speak of, but this fall, I'm healthy, we're all healthy – me, Vincent, Rawls. You know, I'm just physical. I'm more physical. I know what Coach J expects out of us. He expects all of us to run the same, and I've just been picking that up and trying to do what I can to help this team."
Sam Webb: Clearly, you bring some big play ability to the position. I have to ask you; there are two Flint guys (on the team), and both of you have some speed. He says he's a 10.7 100 meter guy. Who's the fastest of the backs?
Justice Hayes: "I don't know. We've never raced before, but we're all pretty fast, you know? We're just all looking forward to getting past that second level and getting out there; but we've all been doing our thing, and we're all real fast. We haven't raced before though. Coach J just wants us to run physical and to run as hard as we can."
Sam Webb: Is that a sense of pride for you guys, both being from Flint? Have you ever talked about that? That hey, you guys can represent home, can really put home on a platform, like a few others – well, Mark Ingram did a few years ago.
Justice Hayes: "Yeah, me and Rawls, we always talk about that. You know, I'm from Flint, and I went to school in Grand Blanc; but me and Rawls, we're familiar with the area, and we go back home and get the love from all our people, and it's a pride thing. There are a lot of people from Flint nowadays doing things, and that's good. I just want our city to come up out of that poverty, and get more positive influences, and get our city out of what it's in right now."
Sam Webb: Coach Hoke said Fitz is going to start practicing with the team (Monday), but he hasn't said whether or not he's going to be available in the game. Do you guys feel that as pressure, or as opportunity?
Justice Hayes: "It's the expectation for our position, you know? We're expected to perform well, and Coach J doesn't look at him any less than he looks at us. This is my brother, and I support him 100%. When we get him back, we're going to get him back, but like I said, it's the expectation of the position, and we're going to do what we can to keep getting wins, and do good this season."
Sam Webb: You said the expectation is for the position, but clearly, all of you guys – you all bring toughness to the table… but skill-wise, you bring some different things to the table. Talk about your teammates. Start off with first with the elder statesman of the group, Vince Smith. Talk about his game. What does he bring to the table?
Justice Hayes: "First of all, Vince has helped me out a lot. I really think him and Fitz have molded me into the back I am right now. They taught me the ropes, and you know, how to block, and things of that nature; and you know, Vince, he's a very hard runner. I think he's the most physical guy on the team, to be honest, and he'll hit you in your mouth when he wants to, so that's how Vince is."
Sam Webb: Alright, so what about Thomas Rawls?
Justice Hayes: "Oh, Thomas – Thomas is the rowdy one. He's the bowling ball of the group. He bounces off of tackles; he reads the right gaps and all the right holes; and he's fast for his size as well, so that's a great combination that Thomas has."
Sam Webb: Alright, well what about the two young freshmen in Drake Johnson and Dennis Norfleet? I don't know how much you've seen them, but what you have seen of them, what do you think?
Justice Hayes: "Oh man, they – the time that they've been there—because they're in class, and they haven't been in camp that much—but the times I have seen them, Dennis too, matter of fact, both of them want to find the play book and want to get familiar with the playbook. They're going to be great. Dennis is – his speed, and his quickness, with Drake's power. They'll be a great combination."
Sam Webb: Now, Dennis clearly in the return mix. What about you? Are you getting any return game in?
Justice Hayes: "Yeah, I'm looking forward to the return game a little bit."
Sam Webb: Punt return, kick return, or both?
Justice Hayes: "Whichever; it doesn't matter. I've been doing a little bit of that in fall camp, and you know, I just want to help the team out. That's how I look at it. Just helping my team get better."
To watch the video of the full interview with Hayes, click play below.