- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Joey Haynos had his eye on football for a long time. It was the sport he wanted to be a part of most of all, even as he sampled baseball, swimming and basketball. His father had played at Catholic, his grandfather at George Washington.

There was just one problem: His dad instituted a no-football rule each fall, leaving Haynos to pine for the day he would finally play his game of choice.

“We wouldn’t let him play until fifth grade,” his father, Joe Haynos said. “I never realized how much he didn’t like soccer until the very last game of the season and the very last whistle blew and he threw up his arms and said ‘Yes, no more soccer.’”

Joey Haynos hasn’t stopped playing football since, first in high school at Gonzaga in the District and then as a walk-on at Maryland. Now on scholarship, he’s become one of quarterback Sam Hollenbach’s most reliable targets in the Terrapins’ first three games.

Tight end appeared to be a questionable position for Maryland after Vernon Davis’ departure to the NFL after last season. Haynos, though, has used precise route-running, surprising speed for a 6-foot-7, 267-pounder and athleticism honed playing several sports growing up to become one of the young season’s pleasant surprises.

“You just become a much better athlete when you play a variety of sports,” Haynos said. “Basketball is very good for footwork and balance. It’s definitely translated to my game. There’s a lot of plays that coach [Ralph] Friedgen has drawn up in which I use my body just to get open. There might be a guy on me, but because I can use my big body to box people out, I can make plays.”

Haynos’ emergence as a Division I tight end didn’t seem likely in high school. He received looks from Catholic, McDaniel and Towson, and gave serious thought to accepting basketball scholarship offers at Campbell or Coastal Carolina.

But he wound up at Maryland by chance. Mike Locksley, then a Terps assistant, attended a Gonzaga game while recruiting one of Haynos’ teammates and watched Haynos enjoy a breakout game. Maryland couldn’t offer him a scholarship, just a chance to eventually compete for playing time.

There was also the size issue. Haynos finished his high school career at 6-foot-6, 215 pounds — a self-proclaimed “string bean.” It didn’t take long for Haynos to realize he would need more weight to block linebackers.

“We were in an elevator the day we moved him in and I think it was Shawne Merriman in there and I looked and thought: I’ve got to take this boy home. He’s going to get killed,” Joe Haynos said.

Instead, he got bigger, found a spot on the Terps’ goal-line offense as a redshirt freshman and was put on scholarship the next year. And amid the misery of Maryland’s loss at West Virginia on Thursday, he set career-highs in receptions (eight) and yards (51) and scored his first touchdown of the season.

Haynos already has been thrown to a team-high 19 times and leads the Terps with 12 receptions. Perhaps more telling is that Haynos has been targeted in the red zone five times, as many as all of Maryland’s wideouts combined.

“He’s done a good job of getting open,” Friedgen said. “We don’t just throw to certain people. We throw to people within the route. Quite frankly, I think I have a confidence in him because I call routes that he can get open in.”

Some of those patterns are similar to those Davis ran for the Terps, but he’s also a steady option for Hollenbach when a first read isn’t open. It’s a niche that benefits both Maryland and Haynos, whose journey from walk-on status is complete.

“I always knew if I worked hard enough and stuck with it I could be a starter and could be making catches and big plays in games,” Haynos said. “Now that it’s come full circle, I couldn’t be more excited.”

Notes — Friedgen clarified he would not become involved in the day-to-day defensive scheming in addition to his offensive coordinator duties despite communication failures in Thursday’s loss.

“I have faith in the guys I hired, and I like to know what we’re doing and I want to know where our breakdowns are, who’s playing well, who isn’t playing well,” Friedgen said. “I’ll be involved in decisions along those lines. As far as structurally what’s going, I have enough on my plate to deal with without being involved in theirs.” …

Cornerback Josh Wilson wore a boot on his right foot. … Reserve guard Garrick Clig suffered a pulled hamstring in practice Monday. Friedgen said guard Andrew Crummey (pulled hamstring) and tackle Dane Randolph (sprained ankle) are still limited. Wide receiver Drew Weatherly (right foot surgery) is still at least a week from returning, Friedgen said.

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