Athlete in Retrospect — Lester Hayes

by A.J. Coltrane

In honor of the Raiders revival, one of the coolest and most famous cornerbacks of the 80’s — Lester Hayes:

Note the header text: Gerry Cooney, next Heavyweight King. The press was borderline desperate for a white champion in the 80's -- back when anyone cared about boxing.

NFL.com has a cool video featuring Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, declaring them the greatest cornerback duo of all time:  Top Ten Cornerback Tandems: Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes

Watch the video — At one point Hayes has a free blindside shot at a quarterback and pretty much tries to rip the guy’s head off.   That was normal at the time, or even encouraged.  The only legal place to hit a quarterback now is between the waist and the shoulders.  The game has really changed the last 30 years.

Lester Hayes was a big, strong guy for a db.  He played linebacker in college at about 6′ and 200 lbs.  His size and strength fit well into the Raider’s defensive schemes:  The Raiders have always played “Bump and Run” coverage — their db’s try to “jam” the wide receiver at the line of scrimmage.  Lester was strong enough that he could maul guys before they could get into their routes.

Lester had 13 interceptions in 1980, good for 2nd all-time, winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.  (He did this in a 16-game season.)   The remarkable thing is that he had another five interceptions in four playoff games, giving him 18 in total for the year.  (Night Train Lane holds the regular-season record, with 14 interceptions in 12 games as a rookie in 1952.  Lane’s listed position was “RDH”, which I assume means Right Defensive Halfback in Precambrian Football Terms.)

The other enduring image of Hayes is the stickum.

Ew. The NFL outlawed this stuff, because it's disgusting. This was called The Lester Hayes Rule.

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