Jovan Haye elected to bypass his senior season at Vanderbilt and enter his name in the 2005 NFL Draft. He was taken by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round, survived rookie camp and landed a roster spot with the Charlotte-based team.
VandyMania: Jovan, first tell us how it is that you are able to be here with the team tonight?
Jovan Haye: We [the Carolina Panthers] had an off week this week, so they gave us a couple of days off. Fortunately the bye week fell on the same week that Vandy was playing South Carolina, so I just decided to come down here.
VM: Were you able to make the Wake Forest game that was in Winston-Salem?
Jovan: Nah, I had a pre-season game against the Steelers that week.
VM: I apologize that I am not keeping up with pro football any more than I am, but I haven't seen whether you've been able to get into a game yet or not. Have you?
Jovan: Yeah, I've been playing mostly on special teams, and I've been trying to learn both the defensive tackle and defensive end positions. Right now you kind of have to pay your dues. I've really been enjoying it, and I've been learning a lot from the older guys.
VM: So you get in on kicks and kick returns? What position?
Jovan: Mostly on the back wedge... or I line up on the center when the other team is kicking.
VM: What have they told you, if anything, as far as their future plans for you?
Jovan: They just tell me to keep coming, and it will get better each week and each day. They tell me just to be the best I can be and keep progressing. Right now as far as my future is concerned, I feel like I've done a good job. I still need to improve, but right now I'm just going with the flow.
VM: What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed between college and pro ball, both on and off the field?
Jovan: It's a business. You've still got to go to meetings and stuff like that, and respect the coaches-- even though you're on a much more personal level with the coaches. You get paid a lot of money to do what you do, so you can't just go out there and be messing around. You're playing with the organization's money, and you know how the league is. It's cutthroat. So you just go out there and do what you have to do, and just perform.
VM: Does it seem a little bit unreal that you're dressing up and playing for the guys who play on Sundays?
Jovan: Yeah, it's always been a dream of mine. I've always wanted to wear the NFL logo, and wear that NFL uniform. To this day, sometimes I don't believe that I'm here. But it will sink in after a while, and I just take it from there.
VM: This was a tough loss for Vandy. I know you've been there before. You went in the locker room with them after the game. What kinds of things did you say to them?
Jovan: I just told them to keep their heads up. They started out so great, but they've just lost the last couple of games. They still have three games left and they just have to win two. So I just told them to keep their heads up and keep the pressure on. They started out 4-and-0. That's how football is, so you just keep fighting and getting better, and hopefully they'll turn it around for the last three.
Carolina Panther Jovan Haye (left) catches up with former Vanderbilt teammate Jay Cutler after Saturday's game. Next year, both will likely be playing in the NFL. (Photo by Brent Wiseman, copyright 2005 for VandyMania.com.)