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1 DAY TO 2021 KICKOFF: Josh Hayes

In which BracketCat counts down the final day before the 2022 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State safety Josh Hayes.

#35 Josh Hayes
Josh Hayes (35) played for both North Dakota State under Chris Klieman and at Virginia. Now he still start again for Klieman at Kansas State.
Photo by Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

Goal No. 1: COMMITMENT. To common goals and to being successful.

#1 Josh Hayes

Redshirt Super Senior | 6-0 | 189 lbs. | Lakeland, Florida
Josh Hayes
Josh Hayes
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Safety
  • Previous Colleges: North Dakota State University; University of Virginia
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Josh Hayes (b. April 24, 1999) is a graduate transfer defensive back who played parts of five seasons at North Dakota State and Virginia. Look for him to start at free safety in 2022.

Hayes played in all 15 games as a true freshman in 2017, including his first career start in the FCS National Championship against James Madison as he helped the Bison win the national title. He tied his season high of three tackles against the Dukes and also forced a fumble.

Hayes also had three tackles in the second round of the playoffs against San Diego after he totaled 15 tackles and three pass breakups on the season.

In 2018, he again saw action in all 15 games, including starts against Youngstown State and Missouri State, and registered 28 tackles, one tackle for loss and three pass breakups.

Hayes had a season-best six tackles in consecutive road victories at Northern Iowa and Western Illinois, then had a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in the FCS National Championship against Eastern Washington, helping the Bison to win the national title again.

He finished tied for second on the team with nine special teams tackles, all coming on kickoff coverage.

Hayes started all 16 games at cornerback in 2019 as he helped the Bison to win a third FCS National Championship, earning second-team All-Missouri Valley Football (MVFC) honors after tallying 59 tackles and 12 passes defended, which included two interceptions.

He also helped NDSU to lead the FCS in fewest passing yards allowed per game (138.6).

Hayes had six tackles, two interceptions and a pass breakup at South Dakota State to earn MVFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, then totaled a season-high nine tackles, half a tackle for loss and two pass breakups against UC Davis.

He had a season-high three pass breakups against Northern Iowa, a game that also featured a forced fumble; tallied his second pick of the year and returned it 33 yards against Western Illinois; and came away with seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup in the FCS Championship rematch against James Madison.

Seven of his tackles on the year were on special teams (four kickoff, three punt) to tie for the second most on the team.

Hayes played in the first six games of the 2020 season, which extended into the spring of 2021, and started all six contests at cornerback. He tied for third on the team with 30 tackles prior to leaving the squad.

Hayes also had three pass breakups and half a tackle for loss, the latter being in his final game against North Dakota. He made a season-high seven tackles against both Southern Illinois and Illinois State, and was selected as a team captain prior to that season.

In 2021, Hayes transferred to be closer to his daughter, Leilani, who was born in September 2019, landing at Virginia, where he played in three games, including at Louisville where he made a tackle. But it was never the right fit, so he sought out Coach Klieman again.

Read more about Hayes’ winding journey to K-State in this excellent D. Scott Fritchen piece.