Football is a not just a contact sport, but a collision sport. This is why football players are often considered tough. But that toughness doesn’t necessarily come from playing the sport. Many players are born with it, as is the case with Culver City High’s Tyler Haye.
Like so many African-American babies, Haye was born prematurely. When he entered the world after just 26 weeks, he weighed less than two pounds. Doctors gave him little chance of survival. His parents were told that even if their son did survive, he would have a mountain issues to overcome. Baby Haye persevered, though. After four months in an incubator, Haye was finally able to leave the hospital, weighing four pounds.
Haye’s premature birth left his motor skills significantly impaired. He was still able to achieve the same milestones as other children, but at a later stage. “When kids were crawling, he’s still learning to hold his head up,” said Haye’s mother, Dr. Mary Haye. “When kids were walking, he was just learning to hold onto the coffee table.”
Tyler fought on, defying the doctors’ logic, and continued to make progress, undergoing regular physical and speech therapies.
Unfortunately, Tyler’s father, Frank Haye, passed away unexpectedly when Tyler was 22 months old. Suddenly, Dr. Haye was faced with raising her son alone. Once again, the odds were stacked against Tyler.
Tyler progressed well enough to end his therapy sessions when he was seven years old. After this, Dr. Haye put her son in sports. Initially participating in baseball and ice skating, it wasn’t until Tyler was in fourth grade that he convinced his mother to let him play football.
Haye quickly realized that football is not baseball, but continued playing despite the physical demands. Much of this is attributed to Haye’s first football coach and mentor, DeAndre Parks, who taught Haye to face his obstacles head-on and “see it through.”
Haye’s determination has led to success on the football field. As a sophomore, he was named the MVP of the junior varsity squad as a running back. Then-JV head coach Paul Bennett called him the “lynchpin” of that team. “The fact that he’s come from such a beginning, and the fact that he is where he is, is a testament first of all to God, and second off all to his effort, and third to the mother that he had to give him that encouragement, to make him the young man that he is,” said Bennett. “As a young man, he’s awesome.”
Haye’s success has garnered him numerous accolades, as well as invites from several football camps, including the National Underclassmen Ultimate 100 camp and the FBU Top Gun camp. This past spring he participated in the Nike SPARQ combine.
Haye is as determined in the classroom as he is on the field. He is enrolled in the Advancement Via Individual Determination(AVID) curriculum, and serves as a LINK student to mentor incoming freshmen. He finished his junior year with a 3.2 GPA, and hopes to finish his senior year even better. He would like to study English in college, and pursue a career in intellectual property law.
Outside of school, Haye is involved in several activities. He regularly volunteers with the Los Angeles County Department of Children & Family Services, as well as Relay for Life.
After playing running back the past three years, Haye recently made the switch to outside linebacker. Even though he’s moving to the other side of the ball, he welcomes the change. “I always love playing defense because all you do is hit,” said Haye. “That’s one of my favorite parts of playing football, is hitting. So it was no problem.”
Despite all of the odds against him, Haye has excelled. This is primarily because of his mother, who has done her best to mold him into an upstanding adult.
“I told him what will build his character into manhood is the ability to influence people,” Dr. Haye said of raising Tyler. “And if you’ve lost your ability to influence people, then you’re not beneficial to that person. So when you’re around kids, and teenagers and young adults, if you’re not able to influence them, then you need to sever those relationships. Because your goal in life is to be able to influence people to be positive, and to live successful lives.”