Austin Hays: Last But Not Least

STILLWATER -- Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had his football team out for the first of two practices on Wednesday morning in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. But that didn't mean the practice wasn't physical and intense because it was.

"It was a pretty good day today," said running backs coach Jemal Singleton. "Guys were running around and moving around well. Our recognition of what it is we're trying to accomplish was pretty good. We still have got to work on our ball skills and catching the ball, but overall, it was a pretty good day."

The practice included a pass defense drill with the head coach showing off his arm and some coaching of defenders to finish their routes.

The Cowboys had another team period in the middle of practice, which as a change seems to get a good response from players, at least they have said so in sessions with the media. There was also an inside drill and some work on Mississippi State against scout teams.

Another predominant topic at camp is the overall talent at wide receiver. In the first quarter of last season's game against Kansas State, freshman quarterback Wes Lunt found fellow freshman Austin Hays on a sluggo on the second possession of the game leading to a 54-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up on the third-ranked Wildcats 7-0.

Despite being offered his scholarship on signing day, Hays arrived in Stillwater with more highly touted receivers in the Oklahoma State class.

But it was the unsung and unrated recruit out of San Antonio Reagan that was the leading freshman receiver with 29 catches for 394 yards and a pair of touchdowns. That made Hays the fourth leading receiver on the team. The next best freshman receiver was C.J. Curry with two catches for 33 yards.

On signing day, Hays had no stars and offers only from schools he was not interested in. He was thinking he might put his eggs for college into the baseball basket.

"I was thinking about baseball for a little bit," said Hays. "When it came down to it, I wanted to play football. I told myself I was just going to wait it out with getting an offer."

On signing day, his friends were all set to be on stage during a signing ceremony at Reagan High School while Hays was in class armed with a cell phone and hoping for a call.

"All my friends were up there signing and I thought I would be there up too, but I wanted to play Division I football so I didn't," explained Hays.

"I got a huge adrenaline rush when Coach (Todd) Monken called me. (Coach Monken) told me if something opened up they were going to offer me. Then at about 11 in the morning on signing day, I was sitting in accounting class and I get a call from Coach Monken offering me."

Hays' signing sent even folks like the author searching for info. He was not rated and there was little information other than high school stats of 55 receptions for 1,062 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those aren't bad stats. And his dad was a receiver at Texas providing some good bloodlines.

"When two-a-days came around I just wanted to be a guy that could catch the ball and run the right routes and stuff," Hays added. "I never wanted Tracy Moore to get hurt or anything but he did and it was unfortunate.

"So I got to step up and play some games as a freshman, which was awesome for me. Catching that pass against Kansas State was an awesome experience. I got in the end zone and I didn't even know what to do. I was having to think about how to celebrate."

The 6-2, 185-pound Hays doesn't have to worry about celebrating now. He is one of the Cowboys' most dependable pass catchers and he is a veteran that is honing his craft and knows who to work against to make himself better.

"For sure Justin Gilbert just because he is long and so fast too," said Hays with respect. "He makes you work at the line and off the line. He makes you work down field because he can recover so well and he is good on the ball. He is that guy.

"Kevin (Peterson) and Ashton (Lampkin) because they are ultra aggressive and I think they are going to be really good this year."

He admits though that fall camp is getting old. It's not just linemen that get sick of each other.

"When you are going up against somebody for so long and everybody is hot and tired you know we don't dislike each other but we want to play against somebody else," said Hays.

The coaching staff and Gundy will admit that recruiting is not an exact science and players with no stars and little recruiting hype prove it. It is gratifying when you sign a young man like Austin Hays and he turns out to be really good.

Hays and his teammates have another workout around 6 p.m. Wednesday, and then it is back to a single morning practice on Thursday. Two-a-days scheduled again for Friday and a scrimmage on Saturday before a pair of days off to get school underway.

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