This marks the third time in three years PSU has landed a super blue-chip linebacker, as Hayes follows in the footsteps of 2004 Lion starters Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor.
It was just the feeling I got when I went to Penn State, Hayes said following a press conference in the library at his high school. I was comfortable. Plus, I want to be a linebacker in college. It was just the whole feeling I got when I went there.
It came down to five schools, Bayonne coach Ricardo Rodriguez said. Whatever decision Jerome made, I felt it would be a great decision. He couldnt lose. The proximity and closeness of a big school like Penn State won out in the end.
That and the tradition of producing talented linebackers. Rodriguez believes Hayes will fit right in to the Penn State mold.
Ive been coaching 20 years, and have six or seven great players, the coach said. Jerome is the best player Ive coached in my life. He brings passion, work ethic, hes very instinctive. He plays the game like an old-time player.
What do I bring? Hayes said. Im a natural leader. I have a strong family background. I have the whole city of Bayonne behind me, a tough bunch of guys. Im ready to play tough and smart and win and become national champions.
Hayes played both ways at Bayonne, rushing for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns, and making 103 tackles and two picks as a senior. Hes not sure if he will play inside linebacker or outside linebacker at Penn State.
Just that he will play linebacker.
Ive very excited to become part of Linebacker U., and to be teammates with great players like Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor, Hayes said.