There are a handful of reasons I usually eschew the full transcript in this space. Some are professional. Some boil down to time constraints (as in transcribing a full interview doesn’t happen automatically). And some of it boils down to interest – really, do you want to read someone talk about playing a full 60 minutes time after time after time?
So this is an exception. And certainly the interview subject is part of the reason why.
Some people can take the best questions you ask and provide nothing worthy of publication for your trouble. Others will take just the most dreadfully phrased and conceived question, work their verbal alchemy, and leave you with a notebook full of gold.
Darrius Heyward-Bey lands at neither extreme. Over the last three years, I’ve learned that the right (read: thought-out) question paired with a limited audience will yield a ton of insight. Ask a boring question in front of a large group, and Hey-Bey isn’t going to go out on a limb with a crazy reply.
That’s a trait that merits a ton of respect – both for how the wideout handles himself and evaluates the situations around him. The old saying “You get out of it what you put into it” almost always holds true with Heyward-Bey, who enjoys a well-considered give-and-take as much as anyone.
That’s why I enjoyed this extended conversation with him from last week. After we got some basic pleasantries out of the way, this was pretty much the meat of our 18-minute discussion. Sure it started with some NFL Draft talk. But at the central core of it all was Heyward-Bey’s desire for privacy, and the things he’s done to ensure he keeps some throughout his career.
PS: The NFL talk is probably starting to swirl. Any thoughts at all?
DHB: No thoughts at all.
PS: You wouldn’t tip your hand if you were.
DHB: I have no input on any of that right now.
PS: You are putting in for the advisory stuff, right?
DHB: Yeah. It’s good to know as much information as you get. Other than that …
PS: That’s something to worry about the 31st?
DHB: I guess so. After the game. The key is Nevada right now, trying to get healthy and trying to get ready for that. That’s the only thing on my mind. All I had to do a piece of paper for the evaluation. That’s all I had to do. Five minutes. Other than that, I’m just concentrating on the game. I know a lot of people are talking about the NFL and stuff like that. Those things, they’re going to happen naturally. I know everybody is looking at ‘When are you going to make a decision.’ I’ll make a decision whenever the deadline is.
PS: Whenever the deadline is.
DHB: The deadline’s the 15th, so I guess that’s when everyone will know. [laughs]. I have no input on any of those things right now.
PS: But you know when the deadline is.
DHB: I know when the deadline is. I have to know what the deadline is.
PS: Has it been harder to avoid that type of talk?
DHB: It’s hard. You go out on campus, you go out around town or anything like that and you get asked the question all the time. The best thing I can tell them is I don’t know. And that’s the truth [laughs]. They’re like ‘C’mon, man, I’m not the media.’ And I’m like ‘what do you want me to say.’ My mom asked me and I said ‘I don’t know.’ Nobody knows.
PS: Who will be the people that you’ll decide this with?
DHB: My mom, coach Friedgen, coach Franklin, my aunt. I think those four people will have a big influence on one of the biggest decisions of my life. I trust them, also. Having those four people to ask and to lean on is a key for me.
PS: I know you like to keep things tight.
DHB: Real tight. That’s me. I think Chris Turner or Danny [Oquendo] said someone asked them ‘Darrius is a real private person; so, has Darrius told you anything?’ He was like ‘You answered your question.’ [Laughs]. And I am. I’ve always been that way. I don’t mind telling you guys a little something something here and there. I keep you on your toes, always thinking. That’s always been me. I’m not a big flashy guy. …
On a decision like this, there’s no reason to mislead everybody because that’s not going to benefit me in any type of way.
PS: Why is it so important to you to keep things so tight? Is that a matter of comfort? I’m almost asking you why are you the way you are.
DHB: If you let everybody into your thoughts, you don’t have anything for yourself, you know what I’m saying? You have nothing for yourself to think about, and I think you have to have that. Especially in sports and you’re playing a sport where the media and people in general just have access to your life. Anything I do, reflects on me and the team, just like going out at night, you make sure you say the right things and do the right things. I’ve always been that way. I’ve always been conscious of what I say and do and always just being that mystery guy.
PS: What have you thought of your season at this point?
DHB: If I looked at my season, a season where they really got a chance to see Darrius Heyward-Bey for what he really is. I started off the season strong, and had some games with no catches. I know a lot of people wanted to see how I would react to something like that, and the crazy thing is all those things I said in the media, that’s me. If you had no catches in a game and you lose, you’re frustrated. If you have no catches in a game you win, you’re happy. Lot of people think you say that because that’s what you’re supposed to say, but that’s me. That’s me all the way. I’d rather win a game than have 60 catches. Well, 60 catches in a game sounds good [laughs].
PS: That’s pretty good.
DHB: That’s pretty good. But I’d rather win a game. I look at the season as up and down, but as a learning experience.
PS: When there was more attention on you than ever before?
DHB: More attention on me by teams that we played, more attention on me from the media and fans. If you’re going to try to be a guy who makes plays on Saturdays, that’s going to happen. That’s the price. You have to step up to the plate and make plays when nobody is expecting you to make plays like Virginia Tech. That touchdown came out of the blue. Middle Tennessee – get your team back into it. The play against Clemson – get your team the momentum going again. That’s my job, to make the plays nobody else can make.
PS: Erin [Henderson], when he made his decision last year, someone asked him when did you make your decision and he said ‘Probably about the West Virginia game.’ So we’re not going to get that from you?
DHB: You’re not going to get that from me. Not at all. I just looked at every game as a building block up to the bowl game to be at this point. I’m happy to be in the Humanitarian Bowl. If things were different, of course, I’d be playing in the Orange Bowl. We had some troubles this year, but I could never put my foot down and say ‘This game, I knew.’ Other people might say that about me. They might say ‘Oh, you did this, and I knew this is what you were going to do.’
PS: Does that amuse you?
DHB: It is funny. I think it’s funny. My teammates have done a great job supporting me. This whole, right now, people talking about the NFL and talking all this stuff, things shouldn’t be about me and what I’m trying to do. It should be about our accomplishments and what we’ve done to be at this point and be in the bowl game. If I go out there and start talking about going to the NFL or not going to the NFL, the focus is not on the team anymore. It’s on me. That’s not fair to my other teammates who have practiced hard and played out there in games when it’s rained twice this year and stuff like that. It’s just not fair to them. And that goes back to my question about why I am I like that? Because it’s not me.
PS: It’s just that guarded is the way you are?
DHB: Yeah. That’s it.
PS: I read a story that said you change your cell phone number every three months or so.
DHB: Yeah, I’ve done that [laughs]. I’ve done that. People don’t do a good job of keeping your cell phone number to themselves , so I’ve changed my cell phone number a few times. … I’m a private person. People call you out of nowhere, asking a bunch of questions and stuff like that. I have too much school and football to worry about.
PS: Come the New Year, the storylines for this team will be you, the hiring of a couple assistants and recruiting.
DHB: Let’s keep me at the bottom. I think finding a new defensive coordinator is key. Filling the special teams [slot] is key. Let’s talk abvout some of the new guys coming in. I don’t know anything about them. The focus on me is not necessary. It’s not going to be that big of a story, anyways.
PS: Wow, now there is the mystery right there.
DHB: Take that the way you want to.
PS: I have no clue what to make of it, and I’m not going to give myself a headache trying to figure it out.
DHB: I like this. This is fun.