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He's Got'Em Cornered
Rick Telander
September 24, 1984
There's no question Mike Haynes of the Raiders is as good as they get, and that goes off the field as well
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September 24, 1984

He's Got'em Cornered

There's no question Mike Haynes of the Raiders is as good as they get, and that goes off the field as well

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"Lester takes chances. He head-butts and baits receivers," says Millen. "But Mike just stays close and plays straight. What you see in their play is an extension of their personalities."

And if Haynes's personality is put together thoughtfully these days, it's only because it once was jagged and incomplete. Sitting at a sushi bar near their home in Redondo Beach, Mike and Julie Haynes examine the transformation.

"You see this food?" Mike says, holding up a morsel of raw fish and rice wrapped in seaweed. "When I was young, a Japanese kid used to bring stuff like this to school in his lunch. And I'd say, Ick!' and never ask what it was. But I should have. The trouble was, I was a follower. I wasn't a questioner. That's why I played football instead of baseball. I could have been really good at baseball—it was my best sport by far—but none of the other guys played it. So I played what they wanted to, to follow."

"It's funny," says Julie, whose father is an accounting professor at Arizona State, "but when he sat behind me in a class at college, I thought it was because he was cheating off me."

"That's because I came in late for a test one day and insisted on sitting in that seat," says Mike. "Everybody figured there must be a reason."

"He held up class for about 20 minutes," says Julie. "He wouldn't sit anywhere else."

Haynes shrugs. "It was my seat."

Both Hayneses agree that such tenacity is the impetus for much of Mike's success. He had the stick-to-itiveness to work during the New England off-seasons as a novice money manager at the State Street Research and Management Company in Boston, and if the Raider deal had been permanently voided because of the trade deadline, he planned to apply to the Harvard Business School to advance his business career. But, along with stubbornness, for a time he also had a kind of tunnel vision that nearly blinded him to the world around him.

It took a black history professor at Arizona State to make him see more clearly. "He told our class to watch blacks walk down a busy campus sidewalk and see how many of them step out of the way of white people," says Haynes. "I didn't watch; I walked down that sidewalk, and I didn't step out of the way, and I ran into so many people. My world was shattered. I'd grown up in L.A., and I thought I knew what was going on. I went back to the professor, and he said, 'Haynes, where have you been?' "

Far from devastating the young man, the new outlook excited him. "For the first time I got a chance to meet Mike Haynes," he says. "I questioned all the labels I'd accepted about myself. I questioned everything."

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