Miami Dolphins tight end Joey Haynos sprints against Maryland… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
The outstretched arms of Joey Haynos reached toward the ceiling of the small, dark room in Gossett Team House on Maryland's campus last month. The Miami Dolphins tight end, who was joined by about 25 Terps football players, moved his right arm slowly down to his right foot, while simultaneously lifting his left leg in the air, as a man about half his size calmly instructed him to "get the left butt to lift up."
Haynos, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound tight end and former Maryland standout, followed the yoga teacher's instructions on different positions, adjusting accordingly for the next hour. While other players joked and grabbed onto the wall to avoid tumbling to the ground, Haynos maintained a steady balance and concentrated on his motions.
"It's good for flexibility," Haynos, 25, said in an interview after his workout. "I've been doing it for the past couple years. I have trouble stretching on my own, so to get someone to get me to stretch is a good deal."
Haynos, who recently bought a house in Kensington, attended the yoga lesson as part of his offseason workout regimen in College Park, his first summer training at his alma mater since embarking on his NFL career two years ago.
"I like coming back here and ÃÂ working out with the team," Haynos said. "It's kind of hard to run on your own, to push yourself. So when you have other guys pushing you and you're pushing them, it makes it a little more competitive and easier to get more work done."
Haynos' return this summer to College Park as an entrenched NFL player seems almost as unlikely as his improbable journey from lanky freshman walk-on to productive, multiyear starter with the Terps.
Dwight Galt, the Terps' strength and conditioning coach, said that when Haynos arrived at Maryland in 2003 out of Gonzaga College High in Washington, it wasn't clear how he would fit in as a Division I player. Within a year, however, Haynos proved he belonged.
"We weren't sure where to put him," Galt recalled. "He came in and he just worked his butt off. I mean he's really a great kid with a great work ethic and really improved pretty much every year of his five years here. First year it was like, 'Oh my gosh, what's this kid doing here?' The second year we were like, 'OK, he's got a little something.' Third year we were like, 'Hey, he's going to be pretty good.' And then fourth and fifth years he was really good."
Haynos' father, Joe, said he knew all along that his son wanted to play college football, even though he also considered a basketball scholarship from Campbell University in North Carolina. Because of that desire to play football, Haynos' initial walk-on status with the Terps didn't bother him much.
"What was important was him doing what he wanted and being happy and committed to what he was doing," Joe Haynos said. "We had talked to coach [Ralph] Friedgen at the time and he assured us he would be given every opportunity to play. There was some concern, but I think it worked real well for both sides."
There was, however, some temptation for Haynos -- who graduated from Maryland with an economics degree in 2007 -- to give up football and be a normal college student.
"We get into these kind of workouts where it's like 5:30 in the morning and all my friends are out partying all night and sleeping in and I'm at the Armory at 5:30 in the morning. There was one point where it was a decision, you know I should just quit. Then I decided not to and I'm glad I didn't," said Haynos, who finished his Terps career with 68 receptions for 687 yards and four touchdowns.
Haynos is back in Miami for training camp. After going undrafted and spending half of his rookie season on the Green Bay Packers' practice squad, Haynos has found his niche as the Dolphins' second-string tight end behind Anthony Fasano, a second-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Haynos' goals go beyond just sticking on Miami's roster.
"I want to be more productive in the passing game. One thing I've learned is that in the NFL you have to adapt to whatever they need you to do. The more you can do, the better," said Haynos, who has caught 21 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns over the past two seasons. "At Miami we run a lot of two tight end sets, so our main focus is running the football. I really tried in the past couple years to become a better run blocker. I feel like I've gotten better, but I feel like I can become an even better run blocker and pass blocker."
Dolphins tight ends coach George DeLeone said he sees improvements in Haynos every day.
"One thing about Joe is he's kept his mouth shut and worked," DeLeone said. "He's, I think, exceeded expectations with his play the last two years, and he's got to do it the hard way each and every day. He's played a lot of good football for us and we're really pleased to have him on our ballclub right now."
As Haynos prepares for the start of the NFL season, he is grateful for everyone who has helped him get to where he is now. While job statuses in the NFL can change in an instant, for now Haynos is happy to strap on his pads, tie his cleats, and catch a football for a living.
"I was talking to one of my friends one time. We were talking about shoes for some reason and I got on talking about cleats," Haynos said. "He looked at me and was like, 'Man, do you know how lucky you are? You still get to wear cleats.' And I think about that all the time. In August, when I'm in training camp, and it's hot, and I'm like, 'This [stinks],' I look at my cleats, and at least I'm not at a desk or doing something else. I still get to play football."