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Once again, the man who has been voted least likely to win the NFL's Goodwill Ambassador of the Year award is Denver Broncos cornerback Mark (Iceman) Haynes.
Comeback of the Year, maybe.
Glad-hander of the Year, not a chance.
Publicly, Haynes is as warm as a DMV clerk. Haynes rarely gives interviews. Haynes never makes appearances. Haynes rarely smiles in public. Haynes rarely talks in public. Forget that. Haynes rarely talks, period. "I even sometimes call him the Iceman," says his wife, Vicki. "I'm the one who always wants to talk."
Haynes's face is the equivalent of a NO SOLICITORS sign. His eyebrows are thick and forbidding. His stare is almost always over there, even when you're talking to him over here. His Fu is serious. His lips are tight. The whole package makes Haynes look as approachable as a customs agent.
"I'm a straight-ahead guy," he says. "If you say you're going to be one way, don't be left of it or right of it." Or, as one of Haynes's old coaches puts it, "If you tell Mark it's going to rain, it better rain." Haynes is to small talk what David Letterman is to orthodontics.
So how come Dennis Raetz, who was Haynes's football coach back at Harmon High in Kansas City, Kans., says Haynes never fails to send something to Raetz's children on their birthdays? And how come Ray Perkins, former New York Giants coach, called him a "top-drawer individual"? And how come Giants tight end Zeke Mowatt says if he were ever in trouble, "Mark would be there for me. He's a class act"? And how many people know what he has been through with Jasmine? Says Raetz, now the head coach at Indiana State, "It takes a long time to get to know him, but once you do, he's one of the warmest people you'll ever meet."
Tell it to the NFL. Haynes, 29, is about as popular in NFL front offices as another antitrust suit. After three Pro Bowl years with the Giants, he held out before signing a contract for 1985 and pretty much forced a trade before the following season. He went to the Broncos, who after one season figured that they had paid too much and might have given him the boot if Louis Wright hadn't unexpectedly retired last summer. Haynes admits, "I was gone." The Bronco powers that be ought to bronze the trade papers because Haynes played a crucial role in getting their team to a second straight Super Bowl.
"Without Haynes, I don't think we'd have made it," says Broncos coach Dan Reeves. Those words probably hit a few speed bumps coming out of the throat of Reeves, who understands Haynes not a whit. As a player with the Dallas Cowboys, Reeves was a hurl-your-body-any-time-anywhere guy. Haynes is a save-it-for-Sunday guy.
"I'd love for him to be a hardworking practice player," says Reeves. "But that's not the way he is. I've got to accept him that way or he won't be part of the team."