- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the swirl of training for the NFL Draft combine earlier this year, Joey Haynos’ agent put him in touch with another client who recently emerged from relative anonymity to cult hero status.

It didn’t take the former Maryland tight end long to realize he had more than a little in common with the New York Giants’ Kevin Boss.

Both are tall players capable of making a difference in the passing game. Neither entered college particularly well known.

But Boss already has a Super Bowl ring after joining the Giants as a fifth-round pick out of Western Oregon last season, a script Haynos wouldn’t mind mimicking starting with this weekend’s draft.

“He’s exactly where I want to be next year,” Haynos said this week. “He came in not necessarily highly drafted or highly touted, but he stepped in and made plays and he won a Super Bowl. It’s definitely encouraging and obviously that’s what I am and want to be at the next level.”

The process — from endless workouts wrapped around a trip to the Hula Bowl to the tiring combine to counting down the days to the draft — will be over in 48 hours. Haynos has a chance to be selected, probably in the final three rounds, or sign as a free agent.

Either way, it will be the culmination of a remarkable rise. He came to Maryland as a walk-on, a 6-foot-8 “string bean” as coach Ralph Friedgen recalled. But he earned a one-year scholarship, made it impossible for the coaching staff to yank it and emerged as a potent option in the Terrapins’ passing game.

Over the last two years, Haynos rolled up 67 catches for 687 yards and three touchdowns as a reliable target on a pair of postseason teams.

“It’s definitely amazing what Joey has done,” Maryland tight end Dan Gronkowski said. “He’s just worked hard. He had a goal in his mind, and it’s mostly really unthinkable for a lot of walk-ons. But he pushed himself and he made himself the player he is.”

And make no mistake: He is a tight end. There were rumblings over the winter he could be asked to play tackle in the pros, but Haynos said much of that talk developed only after an NFL assistant asked if he had ever played the position.

“I have enough trouble staying at 265 [pounds],” Haynos said. “I don’t know how I’m going to get to 300. If a team asked me to, I’d probably do it. Tight end is the position that I’m most comfortable with.”

It’s unlikely he will be asked to move. Tight ends have become more critical components in pro passing games in recent seasons, an influx of athletes like Antonio Gates, Kellen Winslow and former Maryland star Vernon Davis helping to redefine the position.

There’s little question about Haynos’ receiving abilities, and Friedgen views the blocking aspect as the component that will allow Haynos to enjoy a long career.

“That adds a whole other dimension to your team, when that guy can do both,” Friedgen said. “It’s kind of like running backs where they have first- and second-down running backs and third-down running backs. You have a tight end that can block and also can [catch], especially on third down, boy that makes you a real threat. I think Joey has that capability.”

He plans to watch tomorrow’s second-day draft proceedings with a group of family and friends at home in anticipation of a phone call he has long yearned for.

“I guess I’ve always known I had the potential to do it,” Haynos said. “I wasn’t sure if I would get the opportunity. It’s still shocking [at times] to think ‘Man, come Monday I could possibly be on an NFL team,’ and that’s something I’ve always dreamed about.”

And now, the big fella’s big dreams are about to come true.

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