Richard Hayes III dropped his bags as a newly arrived freshman on Furman’s campus and left behind his old job.
A quarterback at Dudley High School in Greensboro, N.C., Hayes signed a letter of intent to play cornerback for the Paladins. Swapping back to signal caller was briefly broached during his recruitment, but Hayes reasoned the depth chart would have to implode for that to happen.
It took five games.
A rash of injuries left the position group in tatters for Furman (4-3), the Football Championship Subdivision school that faces No. 13 LSU (6-2) on Saturday, and forced Hayes’ fast promotion to backup for Reese Hannon.
Five men have helmed the offense, and two went down with season-ending injuries. If Hannon is hobbled, Hayes and third-stringer Duncan Fletcher, another freshman, are left.
“It’s next man up,” said Hayes, who had 53 rushing yards last week against Appalachian State, “only I might be the last one.”
The statement was said in jest, but the fast-spinning quarterback carousel induces nausea.
Hannon, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound sophomore, missed the season opener against Gardner-Webb with a strained oblique. Freshman Dillon Woodruff stepped in, only to suffer a broken shoulder — an injury he endured as he played the entire second half.
Hannon came back for the next three weeks, until a knee injury in the third quarter against The Citadel. Fletcher relieved him as the starter against Elon, and sophomore Terry Robinson served as Furman’s Wildcat option ... until he shredded every major ligament in his knee during the third quarter of the 28-25 loss Oct. 5 — leaving Fletcher as the lone healthy quarterback.
Afterward, quarterbacks coach Tim Sorrells had scant options. The next day, Hayes returned to his familiar home.
At Dudley, Hayes had been a three-year starter, passing for 1,506 yards and rushing for another 1,802 his senior season. A two-star recruit, power conferences largely bypassed him. Navy, an outlier with its triple-option offense, was the sole FBS program offering a scholarship for him to play quarterback.
“They were actually the first school to offer me after my junior year,” Hayes said.
So why ditch his old job?
Even as a senior in high school, Hayes grasped his future likely wasn’t routed toward a football field. Instead, he saw the liberal arts college of roughly 2,700 students and a biology degree as an optimal path toward medical school.
“During the decision-making process, I kept coming back to what I wanted to do after football,” he said.
How much action Hayes might see Saturday isn’t clear. Hannon is healthy again, throwing for 164 yards on 13-of-19 passing in last week’s 27-10 victory, and he’s slated to start Saturday. But the Wildcat package won’t be scrapped — a portion of the playbook is ingrained in Hayes’ mind.
“The mindset was already there,” Hayes said. “It doesn’t go away. Now it’s just time to flip the switch again.”
That circuit was completed on his third snap Oct. 12 against Chattanooga, a simple zone read where the end crashed down and Hayes pulled the ball away from the belly of his running back.
No, it wasn’t glorious — a paltry 1-yard gain on the final play of a 31-9 rout. Still, you can’t help when confidence returns.
“You always notice that you have a little rust,” he said. “I was OK with it but, as the weeks have gone by, I just keep reading my keys, and everything clicks. Everything I did in high school just started to come back.”
The question is how quick the recall might be on a Saturday night in Death Valley if Hannon goes down — a query Hayes answered calmly.
“I won’t have a choice,” he said.