Mike Haynes was one of the best shutdown cornerbacks the NFL has ever seen.
Just ask some of the wide receivers he covered during his illustrious 14-year pro football career.
They’ll tell you he made their lives on the field miserable every Sunday afternoon.
The athletic Haynes took pride in his lockdown defense, which helped the New England Patriots and the then-Los Angeles Raiders reach new heights in the mid-1970s and 1980s, respectively.
He also excelled as a punt return specialist early in his pro career.
After Haynes hung up his cleats, he left a lasting legacy not just among Patriots and Raiders fans, but football fans in general.
He’s the perfect epitome of defense winning football games.
— Mike Haynes (@MikeHaynesNFL) August 21, 2017
A Versatile Athlete for the John Marshall High School Barristers
Mike Haynes was born in Denison, Texas in 1953.
Although he was born in the Lone Star State, he grew up in Southern California.
Haynes attended Thomas Star King Middle School in Los Angeles.
He moved up to John Marshall High School, where he excelled in football and track and field.
Mike Haynes was a dual position threat for the John Marshall High School Barristers, playing quarterback on offense and cornerback on defense.
One day, 17-year-old Mike Haynes ran into a young Barristers water boy and future Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid on the football field.
Haynes asked him why he wasn’t wearing his uniform.
“Because I’m 12 years old,” Reid said.
Aside from the encounter with Reid, there wasn’t much to be happy about for Haynes.
His high school football career ended on a sour note as his Barristers went 0-7-1 in his final season in 1971.
Fortunately, he left a legacy on the track.
Haynes is the current long jump record at John Marshall High School.
His jump in his final regular-season track meet measured 23 feet and five inches – a record that still stands after 50 years.
The record-breaking jump also propelled the Barristers to the league championship victory over their arch rivals, the Belmont Sentinels.
Mike Haynes Stadium, which was named after the high school track and football star, began operations within the school premises in 1981.
Blossoming Into a Defensive Demon with the Arizona State Sun Devils
Mike Haynes’ stellar high school football and track and field career in Los Angeles was a sign of things to come.
Haynes moved 400 miles east to Tempe, AZ and committed to the Arizona State Sun Devils in 1972.
It didn’t take him long to make a difference on the gridiron.
Haynes, a stud cornerback, was part of a defensive unit which helped ASU win nine of 11 games during his freshman campaign in 1972.
Behind Danny White‘s 266 passing yards, Woody Green‘s 202 rushing yards, and an insane total of 718 offensive yards, the Sun Devils coasted to a 49-35 victory over the Missouri Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Sun Devils continued lording it over the competition as they won 11 of their 12 games in 1973.
Haynes and Co. were a stonewall on defense, allowing a paltry 171 points all season long.
The 1973 Fiesta Bowl was no different: The Sun Devils stifled the Pittsburgh Panthers’ offense and won easily, 28-7.
It was ASU’s third straight Fiesta Bowl triumph and another feather in Mike Haynes’ cap.
Unfortunately, Arizona State took a step backward with a sub-par 7-5 win-loss record in 1974, Haynes’ junior year.
Nevertheless, he recorded 11 interceptions during the season. It’s the second-highest total in ASU football history
He also expanded his repertoire on the gridiron.
Haynes excelled in special teams as the Sun Devils’ primary punt return man in 1974.
He fielded a school-record 46 punts that year.
— Dan Trujillo (@pixelmandan) January 18, 2017
Mike Haynes’ senior season in 1975 was the pinnacle of his college football career.
After a disappointing 1974 campaign, Arizona State bounced back in emphatic fashion.
For his part, Haynes recorded two punt returns for touchdowns as a senior.
He sent a clear message to scouts he can also exceed expectations as a punt returner.
The Sun Devils won their fourth Fiesta Bowl crown in five seasons after they defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 17-14.
Haynes experienced a life-changing moment during a meeting with ASU head football coach Frank Kush in his senior season, per the Arizona Republic’s Greg Moore.
“In my senior year, I had a meeting with Coach Kush. In his office, he had a post of George Webster…and underneath it, it said, ‘George Webster, Greatest College Player of All Time.’
“I said, ‘Wow, if that can happen to the greatest college football player of all time, it can happen to me.”
Haynes referred to the New England Patriots releasing Webster, a fellow defensive back whose locker room sat next to his, after his rookie year in the NFL.
Webster’s fate prompted Haynes to finish his business degree at Arizona State during the 1976 offseason.
“It was one of the best things I did,” Haynes told Moore in 2020. “I felt better about going back to school and finishing with my business degree from Arizona State that I did making the All-Rookie team.”
The turn of events also played a part in Haynes’ role as an NFL transition coach, where he helped rookies and recently-retired players adjust to their new lifestyles.
Mike Haynes concluded his impressive college football career with 17 interceptions, the second-best all-time total in ASU football history.
He was a two-time All-American defensive back and three-time All-Western Athletic Conference honoree.
From First-Round Draft Choice to Pro Bowler with the New England Patriots
The New England Patriots made Mike Haynes the fifth overall pick of the 1976 NFL Draft.
The team acquired two of its three first-round draft picks by trading quarterback Jim Plunkett to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Patriots finished dead last in the AFC East in 1975, winning just three of their 14 games.
Their 3-11 win-loss record was also the second-worst in the conference behind the 2-12 San Diego Chargers.
Since joining the NFL in 1970, the Patriots had never been to the postseason.
With Mike Haynes in tow, New England was ready to turn its fortunes around.
The highly-touted rookie promptly picked up where he left off in Arizona State.
Haynes excelled in defense and special teams for the Patriots.
He recorded eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries during the 1976 NFL season.
He also led the AFC with 608 yards on 45 punt returns.
Haynes also made history in 1976 when he became the first Patriots player to score touchdowns on – not just one – but two punt returns 89 yards and 62 yards long.
43 years ago
🗓️ 7th November 1976
Mike Haynes makes history becoming the first player in #Patriots history to return a Punt for a touchdown vs the #Bills. Haynes also has an interception as the #Patriots defeat #Bills 20-10#GoPats#Patriots#PatriotsNation pic.twitter.com/r3NG85Hh0h
— RetroPatriots (@RetroPatriots) November 7, 2019
His scintillating performance earned him a berth in the 1977 Pro Bowl.
Haynes also became the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
New England’s draft class helped the team win 11 of its 14 games in 1976.
The squad also earned its first postseason birth in 13 years dating back to its AFL days as the Boston Patriots.
Unfortunately, they lost in the divisional round to Ken “The Snake” Stabler’s Oakland Raiders, 24-21.
Haynes finished the game with 13 punt return yards.
Haynes never surpassed his incredible rookie season in subsequent years.
However, his presence on defense and special teams made the Patriots a better team.
Although New England won two fewer games in 1977, the team went 11-5 a year later.
Haynes had six interceptions and a pick-six in the 1978 NFL season, his third with the Patriots.
Behind Dan Pastorini‘s (who wore a bullet-proof vest to protect his injured ribs) 200 passing yards and three touchdown passes, the Houston Oilers prevailed over New England in the divisional round, 31-14.
— Patriots Alumni (@NEPAC) March 14, 2019
Haynes started 58 consecutive games for the Patriots at cornerback before a rib injury sidelined him late in the 1979 NFL season.
He went on to miss a total of 18 games in the next three seasons, recording just six interceptions during that stretch.
It came as no surprise New England missed the postseason from 1979 to 1981.
Haynes picked off four passes in 1982, an impressive feat considering it was a strike-shortened, nine-game season.
The Patriots won five of those games but lost to the Miami Dolphins in the divisional round, 28-13.
Haynes played out his option with New England at the end of the season.
The Los Angeles Raiders reached a settlement with the Patriots which sent Haynes to Al Davis’ squad.
In exchange, the Patriots received a No. 1 draft pick in 1984 and No. 2 draft choice in 1985.
Haynes concluded his seven-year stint in New England with 28 interceptions and 1,159 yards on 111 returns.
He earned six Pro Bowl berths and six Second Team All-Pro nominations as a member of the Patriots.
Mike Haynes became a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1994.
Super Bowl Glory with the Los Angeles Raiders
Mike Haynes returned to his old Southern California stomping grounds as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983.
That was the year when “Haynes and Hayes,” arguably the greatest cornerback duo in league history, was born.
Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes were a formidable defensive back combo which terrorized opposing passing games from 1983 to 1986.
They made life miserable for wide receivers and offensive coordinators during that span.
Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes were arguably the best corner tandum in NFL history. #ShutDownCorners @AK7682 @Angelrdz66 @KSJM_12_72 @blitzchk @SilverNBlackJWB @MrMiles02569390 @sportszzfan @raiderlady70 @Wehrl @KtyRN4L @BlackFoxRaider @CiscokidOrtega @PGutierrezESPN @Raiders pic.twitter.com/aftSijggRc
— TOOZ#72 (@denniss9117) August 6, 2020
When Haynes donned Raiders’ Silver and Black, became more of a shutdown cornerback.
He returned just one punt for nine yards in his seven years in Los Angeles.
Haynes suited up in just five games for the Raiders in 1983 because of his contract dispute with the New England Patriots.
With Haynes putting the clamps on wide receivers, Los Angeles won four of those five games.
The Raiders finished the regular season with a 12-4 mark and gave up just three touchdowns in the postseason.
Los Angeles won its third Vince Lombardi trophy, routing the hapless Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, 38-9. Marcus Allen‘s 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns as well as Haynes’ key interception made the difference for head coach Tom Flores‘ club.
In a 2014 interview, the Raiders’ star cornerback said his interception thwarted Washington’s comeback attempt:
“We were ahead and everybody was expecting the Redskins to come back. That interception just meant they weren’t coming back and it changed a lot of things for us.
“It’s a great feeling to know you had one in the biggest game of the year that will be in history forever and ever. That’s what makes it exciting.”
— John Hines (@JohnHines66) July 1, 2020
Haynes also shared his sentiments on his first and only Super Bowl title with the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vinny Bonsignore:
“At the end of the game, I was just completely caught up in the emotion. This was my first Super Bowl win, and as it turned out my only Super Bowl championship.
“So I just wanted to pay attention and appreciate the moment. And for Al Davis to say what he said about us being his ‘greatest team,’ that was so important to me.
“I was just in a place that I’d never been before and I remember thinking, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is it.’ And I’m so glad to be here and be with these teammates.”
Haynes enjoyed his most productive years in a Raiders uniform with a total of 10 interceptions in 1984 and 1985.
The Raiders were postseason contenders during that stretch, winning a combined 23 games.
However, they failed to reach the Super Bowl.
They lost to the Seattle Seahawks in the 1984 wild card round and to Haynes’ old team, the New England Patriots, in the 1985 divisional round.
Haynes’ production declined in the next four seasons.
He recorded just seven interceptions from 1986 to 1989.
The Raiders won an average of just seven games per season during that time frame.
Consequently, they missed the postseason for four straight years.
Haynes retired from football following the 1989 NFL season.
In a combined 14 seasons with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders, he had a total of 46 interceptions, two pick-sixes, 14 fumble recoveries, 1,168 punt return yards, and two punt returns for touchdowns.
He also earned nine Pro Bowl and two First-Team All-Pro selections.
— BetFast.com (@BetFastBTC) June 23, 2020
Mike Haynes earned a Super Bowl ring with the Los Angeles Raiders.
In an interview with the East Bay Times’ Jimmy Durkin in 2016, Haynes called that group of Raiders “the original intimidators”:
“Everybody talks about getting back to being the old Raiders. You can’t get back to being the old Raiders. That’s not going to happen. You can win like the old Raiders, but you can’t be like we were. We were the original intimidators.
“We didn’t care about the league office, we didn’t care about the referees on the field, we didn’t care about the guys on the other side of the ball.
“We were there to win no matter, any way we could. And those days are gone now. You intimidate another player, you can be ejected.”
Regrettably, the Raiders don’t have a team Hall of Fame.
Had that not been the case, Mike Haynes would’ve been a first-ballot inductee.
Mike Haynes’ Post-Football Life
When Mike Haynes retired from the NFL, he earned several accolades.
First, he was inducted into the Marshall Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Eighteen years later, he became a member of John Marshall High School’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
The NFL also named Haynes to its 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994.
Among the other players selected were Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Mike Ditka, Deacon Jones, Reggie White, “Mean” Joe Greene, Lawrence Taylor, Rod Woodson, and Ronnie Lott.
Mike Haynes became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
He said there’s no such thing as a mediocre defensive player in his Pro Football Hall of Fame biography:
“(Playing defense) You’re always either bad or great. There are no in-betweens. I wish the public was more educated about defenses but they’re not.
“I’ve had some of my best games when I’ve completely shut out guys and it goes unnoticed.”
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) July 26, 2020
Three years later, Haynes was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Haynes became active in the business world after his retirement.
He served as the global licensing manager of Callaway Golf for six years (1994 to 2000) and vice president of recreational golf development for one year.
The NFL hired Haynes to become the director of its player and employee development department in 2002.
He helped create and manage programs for rookies and recently-retired football players in that capacity for almost a decade.
Haynes also served as the NFL commissioner’s special advisor on player issues.
He is currently the founder and president of Mike Haynes & Associates (MH&A), a consulting company.
When a 55-year-old Haynes went to a health screening at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH in 2008, it led to his early-stage prostate cancer diagnosis.
He underwent a radical prostatectomy surgery in San Diego that same year.
Haynes told The East Coast Group’s Adam Bradley 10 years later “a robot did the surgery.”
Haynes has fully recovered and reduced his meat consumption since then.
He also has been working out regularly with his sons and daughter.
He also does yoga, hiking, walking, and golf.
“As a kid, I always thought people died in their 50s and 60s, but I set a goal that I am going to live until I am 125 years old,” Haynes told The East Coast Group. “I believe in bodacious goals.”
Special thanks to Pro Football Hall of Famer and prostate cancer survivor Mike Haynes for stopping by again this year to visit our patients and employees.
We always look forward to seeing him during HOF week! pic.twitter.com/bn6pjzHRgw
— Aultman Hospital (@AultmanHospital) August 3, 2018
Haynes is also the spokesperson for the Urology Care Foundation’s “Know Your Stats” campaign which aims to raise more awareness about prostate health.
In doing so, Haynes received the Gilda Radner Courage Award from the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation.
Mike Haynes has a wife, Gigi. He also has six children.