Flip the switch: Murray County senior safety channeling inner strength on the field

Emmalee Molay/Daily Citizen-News

Murray County High School's Tyler Hayes, right, celebrates after the Indians recovered an Armuchee fumbleĀ earlier this season in Chatsworth.

Editor's note: This story is featured in the Daily Citizen-News' weekly high school football Touchdown! section. Grab an issue in papers on Fridays during football season, or stop by our office for a copy.

CHATSWORTH -- When Murray County High School's Tyler Hayes is in the locker room before games, he likes to keep to himself. As soon as he walks on the field, however, he's an entirely different person.

The senior safety and wide receiver said as soon as it's game time, there's a switch that flips inside his brain.

"I don't know what happens. When I'm on the field I'm just locked in," he said. "It's a different feeling. When I'm out there, I'm trying to communicate with everyone that I can."

Hayes has battled multiple injuries throughout his career, seemingly always having some kind of tweak in his body here or there. His hard work and intensity for the game is finally paying off as he is currently second on the team in tackles. He has totaled 18 through the Indians' first two games, just behind Carson Voiles who has 20.

The accomplishment is even sweeter, he said, as Murray County (2-0) has won its first two games for the first time since 2016 after the Indians finished last year winless.

"It feels great especially coming off of last season," he said. "I'm just trying to do anything to help the team."

Injuries aren't the only thing that has given Hayes a little extra boost on the field. He's been playing for his father who passed away from cancer in 2011 -- when Hayes was in the third grade. Since then he's looked after his little sister Kirsten who started seventh grade recently at Gladden Middle School.

Since Hayes said there isn't much of an athletic background in their family, he and his sister have formed a tight bond over sports. He even helped coach Kirsten's recreational softball team, as well as cheered for her on her middle school and travel ball teams.

"I've kind of had to be a father figure to her," he said. "We're really close. I try to make it to every game that I can just to be there for her. I feel like we are starting a little bit of a tradition with sports."

Being there for others, including his teammates, is something that Murray County coach Chad Brewer said just runs in Hayes' veins.

"He's a guy that's played all four years," he said. "He's one of those kids that you would never think -- since he's shy -- that can play so physical, but he can.

"He's very kind and gentle, well-behaved, but when he gets on the field he's really throwing his body around."

After high school, Hayes said he isn't sure what's next.

"It would be great to keep playing ball," he said. "If I get the chance I want to, but if I don't then I still want to college and get a better education."

Wherever he goes, Hayes said he'll just have to make sure he's back at some point to watch his sister play more softball. Until then, she'll be watching him, too.

The Indians travel to Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe tonight for their first region game of the year.

"I feel like she'll be happy for me," Hayes said. "She's always been really supportive of me and the choices I've made."

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