Kentucky offensive lineman Nick Haynes of Florida knows he’ll have a lot of family and friends at Saturday’s TaxSlayer Bowl.
By: Larry Vaught
Instead of having to travel from Florida to Kentucky to see her son, Kentucky offensive lineman Nick Haynes, play as she usually does, DeDe Haynes will be able to stay in Florida to watch UK play in Saturday’s TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.
However, being in Florida for a bowl game is not what has her most excited about UK football.
“She was more excited that we beat Louisville (to end the regular season),” said Haynes. “That game was huge and don’t overlook that. But she just loves to see us play. For her, this bowl game is just another opportunity for me to play and any time I get a chance to play, she is excited.
“She loves where the bowl game is. It could not have been any better unless it was right in Niceville (where the Haynes live). Not a better location for her, but she just loves that we are playing.”
He’s not sure how many family members/friends he’l have at the game. His mother put together an initial list but then his father added to it.
“More people are getting on this train,” Haynes said.
He spent time at home with family and his newborn niece before driving to Jacksonville for UK’s final bowl practices this week. After the game, he’ll get to go back home to “hang out” more with family before heading back to UK.
When Kentucky started the season, his mother boldly took to Twitter to urge UK fans not to give up on the team. She’s been known to even remind media members during a game to not abandon her Wildcats.
“She is not one of those to say things now to those people who didn’t believe in us,” the junior lineman said. “She is a very humble person and taught me that, too. She would never do that. But at the same time, some of those people left the bandwagon and now they have come back.”
Indeed they have. That’s what winning seven of the last nine games and getting a Florida bowl spot on New Year’s Eve can do for a program.
Haynes knows the offense needs to sustain drives and avoid turnovers against Georgia Tech, a team known for its running attack.
“We need a lot of sustained drives and lot of trips to the red zone because that is what they are going to be doing. We need to have long drives, too, to help our defense out. But we can do that,” he said.
That belief has been there since the fourth game of the season when UK lost to Alabama, the nation’s No. 1 team. After the game, Alabama coach Nick Saban and Tide defensive players praised UK’s physical play in the offensive line.
“Against Alabama, we realized we could play. That’s the best team in the country. If you can play with them, you can play with anybody. When we realized that, we kept the same mentality every game after that,” Haynes said. “That game turned the switch for us. You were a little anxious against the best team in the country. You don’t know how good the best team is until you play them. Just having that as a measuring stick for us was good.
“We watched a lot of Alabama games before. Now we are not trying to say we are better. We got blown out, too. Up front I feel we took a different approach against Alabama. No one really went at them. We were the first team to really run power and downhill zones where we had to get physical with them. It was just nice to get a compliment about playing hard. That’s all you care about.”