Daelin Hayes has been an impressive player and team leader throughout his career at Notre Dame, and his charisma and communications savvy have been apparent since his awesome commitment video from a few years back. He’s been a treasure to the program for years, but last Friday we saw him become something else entirely: a powerful leader for change, and a guy who embodies what Notre Dame Fighting Irish football stands for.
We had a post about Notre Dame’s on-campus Juneteenth rally last week, but I want to highlight Daelin’s contribution again because it was especially powerful. Check it out below:
It’s rare to see a speaker who combines passion and conviction with openness, compassion and an invitation to be part of the solution as well as Hayes does here. Everyone - not just guys on the football team, not just students or faculty at Notre Dame - can be impacted and inspired by his words. He is using his gifts and platform to advocate for such an important cause, and it makes me proud as a fan that Notre Dame is elevating his efforts.
One of the things that struck me and impressed me most in listening to Hayes speak was his emphasis on service and on reaching out to the South Bend community. Speaking of his twice-a-week visits with his fianceé to help with conflict resolution lessons at Lincoln Elementary School, Hayes encouraged his teammates and classmates to get involved in similar service work. This spoke to me because one area where I believe Notre Dame can make some real progress - and where I wish I had gotten involved more while I was a student - is its engagement with the town that surrounds it.
South Bend is a city with a substantial black population that experiences persistent social and economic inequality, and whose overall economy is still completing a gradual turnaround after decades of stagnation and decline. Students looking for ways to learn about and act issues of racism, poverty and much more need only look out their windows. And although Notre Dame students already do some wonderful things in South Bend, it is still hard to avoid noticing the barriers that often exist between the student body and the city, and the stark differences in the lived experiences of Domers and South Bend residents. I do not say this to fault or indict Notre Dame in any way; only to encourage further engagement and understanding between college and college town, knowing that there is great educational value in such undertakings. If Hayes’ servant leadership serves as an example to his teammates and fellow students to get involved in similar efforts, then he will have done an immense service to Notre Dame and South Bend alike.
Hayes only has one more year left at Notre Dame before he goes out into the world to do bigger and better things. In the meantime, let’s enjoy getting to cheer on this guy, who is not only a dynamic player and great teammate on the field but a passionate, servant-hearted leader off of it, and celebrate the mark he is already leaving at the school we all love.