The Bucs picked up defensive tackle Jovan Haye, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2005 draft by the Carolina Panthers, off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad after the sixth game of the 2006 season. In nine games, Haye recorded 25 tackles, including 13 solo tackles.
Haye spent most of training camp battling at under tackle and captured the starting position for the regular season. Haye had two tackles in the 20-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
Pewter Report contributing writer Charles Gonzalez talks to Haye about his playing time at Vanderbilt, bouncing around the NFL and not playing high school football until his junior year in this PewterReport.com Conversation.
Jovan, your parents didn’t allow you to play football in high school until you were a junior. What was their reasoning for that decision and did that hinder your progression in the game? “They were just worried about injuries because I had never played football before. So they thought that picking up the game that late in high school, it would be a little awkward, but that was the only reason why they wouldn’t let me play football when I started high school. It could have hindered my progression because I could have gotten a jump start on it earlier. I only played offensive line in high school so maybe if I would have started earlier, I would have played defensive line or linebacker. But I guess it saved a couple of years off my body so I guess it worked out.”
I noticed that you also played track and basketball during your high school career. What was that like for you? “I just threw the shotput on the track team and I played junior varsity basketball. I never got the opportunity to play at the varsity level because I decided that I didn’t want to play anymore. I played power forward and small forward because I couldn’t score that much. I was more of a hustle guy, doing the dirty work.”
You entered the draft after your junior season at the University of Vanderbilt and were selected in the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers. If you could go back and make the decision all over again, would you have stayed for your senior season or entered the draft as you did? “I don’t have any regrets about coming out after my junior season, but I’m pretty sure another year might not have hurt. But you never know it might have hurt, you really never know. It was just the right time; I think things happen for a reason. I wouldn’t do it again, but I sometimes think about it though.”
You had the opportunity to play three seasons in the Southeastern Conference and some experts call it the best conference in college football. What are your thoughts about that experience and what are some things that you carried with you from playing in that conference? “It is the best conference in college football. It was great to play in that conference because you are playing against the top schools in Florida, Georgia, LSU and all the rest of the teams that I left out. It was fun knowing that on every Saturday, you were going to get the best competition, week in and week out. It was just crazy especially during road games because at Vanderbilt our fan base wasn’t that big. So you kind of liked going on the road and seeing what other schools were like. That’s what I got the most out of playing in the SEC.”
Playing against the best competition in the SEC can be considered a good measuring stick for players that want to play in the NFL. How did playing in the SEC and facing some of the top players in the country help you when making the transition to playing in the NFL and facing the best of the best? “In a way it did help me because a lot of the guys that I played against in college are in the NFL right now. Even though they weren’t NFL players at that time, they were future NFL players so going against some of the offensive linemen and different running backs – I went against Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown in one game and they are both in the NFL – so I played with and against a lot of pros that were in the SEC.”
It’s interesting that you had to play against Cadillac Williams in college. What improvements have you seen in Cadillac’s play in the NFL now that you are his teammate compared playing against him in college and what was the game plan to stop him? “I think he is the same back; Yes I think he’s made improvements, but he’s the same back I played against. He’s a slasher, quick, agile, hard runner. The same guy I faced. Our game plan was to stop the run against Auburn in college, but that didn’t work out because they beat us like 40-something to seven. They ran all over us.”
During the preseason game against New England, you had four tackles in the first quarter and then were taken out for the rest of the game. It seems that you were in the zone in that game, can you talk about being in a zone in a game as a defensive tackle? “It felt good because obviously I was like ‘Wow, I got four tacklesin the first quarter.’ You never know what would have happened if I would have played in the rest of that game. It’s crucial that players get into that zone where they feel like every play that comes my way I’m going to make it. So I think there are times that you need to get into those zones and sometimes it’s really hard to get into them. It’s not the easiest thing to get in to, but when you get into the zone you kind of know and feel like everything that comes my way I’m either going to make the play or be right around the ball when the play is made. So it’s very crucial to get into those zones.”
Many players that Pewter Report has spoken with on the defense felt that former defensive line coach Jethro Franklin never really earned the respect of the veterans last season. Why do you feel that he was unable to gain their respect? “I have nothing negative to say against Jethro. It was just that he had a different coaching style, a younger coaching style. It was an in-your-face type thing, and it’s just two different styles. Now, coach [Larry] Coyer is old school, hard-nosed kind of coach so it’s just a different style. I learned a lot of things from Jethro and when I saw him after the Houston game I just went up and thanked him for giving me the opportunity.”
You got to play under Franklin last season and now have had the opportunity to play under defensive line coach Larry Coyer this season. Can you give a little more detail about the differences that you see with Coyer, like in the meeting room or on the field? “First of all, coach Coyer was a defensive coordinator [in Denver] so he knows a lot about defenses, not saying that Jethro didn’t. When you are a position coach like coach Coyer, who is the defensive line coach now after being a defensive coordinator, he just has an old school mentality, different techniques that we are doing with coach Coyer. He’s straight forward with you, and Jethro was too, but it was different. He’s [Coyer] is blunt with you and he will say what’s on the tip of his tongue. With Jethro it was rolling down, but it never came out. Coach Coyer, I think there are a lot of things on the tip and if he doesn’t like what he sees he will let you know. But he never does it in a disrespectful way, he shows us a lot of respect. In the meetings, you have to be on your toes because you never know when he’s going to ask you a question and he’s very interactive. He will ask for questions, ask for your input and your feedback. So it’s not like you are just sitting back watching film. He’s always talking on every play and he’s doing every thing on every play.”
There are a couple of big hitters on the defensive side of the ball minus the defensive line who gets to make big hits on the quarterback. Who, in your opinion, is the hardest hitting player on the defense? “Back in the secondary, I think a lot of people can hit somebody. You have guys like Flip [Jermaine Phillips] Will [Allen], Kalvin [Pearson], BK [Brian Kelly], but I like Kalvin. He’s an old school guy from Alabama and almost doesn’t know any better type thing. So I would have to go with KP [Kalvin Pearson].”
You are the next player in line to try and replace Warren Sapp at the under tackle position in Tampa Bay Cover 2 defense. Would you say it’s similar following Sapp at the under tackle position to a quarterback following Dan Marino or John Elway? “Yes, it’s definitely like that. I haven’t had anyone around here put those kinds of expectations on me, but you kind of get the idea that guys like Warren Sapp, Booger McFarland and even Ellis Wyms have laid a good foundation. So it’s like I’m trying to play ball like the way I know how, but everybody knows to play in this defense and play this technique, you have to play it like the guys that played before you. Hopefully I will get around to it, but right now I’m just trying to get better every day.”
You have bounced around the league from Carolina to being put on Cleveland’s practice squad to landing in Tampa Bay for nine games last season. How have those experiences helped you during your young career? “They did a lot for me because they helped me to realize, first of all, from a business standpoint what kind of business you are dealing with. Here today, gone tomorrow. You are only one play away from your last play, but it taught me to keep fighting. A lot of guys have bounced around in the league and I’m one of them and you never know where you are going to end up. I pray to God every day that this is my last stop, but everybody knows how this business is. So you just have to get the right feeling, the right timing and God has a plan for everybody. So if I’m not playing football and I gave it everything I had just couldn’t make it then that just the plan God has. It lets me realize to capitalize on every opportunity. Teams like different players and I may have not fit Carolina’s scheme, even though they had drafted me, or Cleveland. I’m doing a good job now down here now and I’m just trying to get better down here so I don’t have to keep bouncing around.”
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