The sun began to set on a beautiful New Jersey November day as the sweat trickled down Julian Hayes‘ forehead. Out of breath he began to mutter, “I can’t quit, not yet, not now.” There was no crowd, no coaches, no other players. As the 5’11 215 lb. running back picked up his head and started running towards the opposite goal line, someone might ask why he was doing so, only days after the twelve game grueling season which saw him rush for a new career high with arguably the toughest schedule that the Monmouth University football team had ever seen.
Hayes grew up in Middletown, Connecticut and was raised in a single parent household with his mother Jessica Hayes. When he turned seven, he found football. “I felt at peace ever since I started playing. It’s a great game and I fell in love instantly,” Hayes said.
Jessica Hayes added that her son was always drawn to football. “I could see it in his eyes. It was his love, his passion, from the very beginning,” Jessica Hayes continued. “I knew he was destined for great things. The day he started playing football, everything changed for him and I told myself he had found his niche.”
Hayes attended Xavier High School. He helped lead the Falcons to a 9-2 record and a Southern Connecticut Conference Championship as a senior. In his senior year, he rushed for over 1,400 yards and 23 touchdowns. After high school, he decided to take his talents to the Hun School to do a post-grad year in order to get a scholarship offer.
“I knew that I needed a scholarship in order to pay for college,” said Hayes. “I was willing to do anything I had to do in order to get to the next level.”
At the Hun School, he made even more progress as a player and was named to the Star Ledger First Team All-Prep. Even then, it was not until the following June (five months after National Signing Day) when MU came to visit him at the Hun School and offered him a scholarship.
When Hayes got on the field at MU, he made an immediate impact. As a true freshman, he rushed for 14 touchdowns to lead the team. He also was named to the College Sports Journal All-Freshman team.
In his second season with the Hawks, he was able to move into the top ten career rushing leaders and added 11 more touchdowns to his career mark.
Hayes was not satisfied though. A week after the season ended, he was on the field and in the weight room religiously to make sure he was properly prepared for next season. He cut down his weight by 20 pounds, but added strength. “I saw him working out all the time. Every time you saw him, he was doing something football related it seemed,” said junior teammate Hakeem Valles.
The preparation for the season was spent with fellow running back K.B. Asante.
“We pushed each other in drills. We knew what kind of monster we could be together,” said Julian. “Even away from workouts we would see each other six days a week. He would come over my house and chill. We’ve always been good friends,’ said Asante.
Leading into the season with so much talent in the backfield, the two were getting an equal amount of carries. With split carries, it is extremely difficult to be as effective as a runner, so it is even more impressive that both backs set career highs in yards and both eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark. Julian finished with 1,111 and Asante finished with 1,080.
“Having two backs over 1,000 yards is a tremendous accomplishment both for KB and Julian,” said MU football head coach Kevin Callahan.” I think you need to give a lot of credit to the work our offensive line did throughout the year, providing the holes and the blocking for them to run.”
Hayes also acknowledged the offense’s work as he said, “Our offensive line worked hard to help us get to where we needed to be. We owe them all the credit and know they should get a lot of credit.”
Both juniors, Hayes and Asante have one more year to share the backfield together. “I think our goal is to just get better. We both know what we have to do,” said Asante.
With one more year of eligibility Hayes’ goals are simple: win. “I’ve had the same goals and aspirations forever and that’s to help my team get as many wins as we possibly can.”
It is now dark out; Hayes has finished his final sprint of the day. He looks down at his watch surprised at the time. He then stretches his whole body in the now frigid November air. As he sits, he stretches out his hamstrings. He then gets up, he looks back towards the field he says, “I have to get better…I will be great.”