D.J. Hayden should be your man, Jeff Ireland.
You don’t have to pay a king’s ransom to trade up to get him and that’s probably what you’d have to do to get Dee Milliner. Hayden, the most complete cornerback in this draft, will be sitting right there if you pick at No. 12 during the first round of Thursday night’s NFL Draft, and he might even be there if you trade down a few spots.
You don’t have to worry about Hayden making plays because he did that in college. You don’t have worry about how fast he runs because he ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at his pro day last month. You don’t have to worry about Hayden dropping interceptions thrown in his hands like one of your past picks because, well, have you seen him play?
Hayden should be your pick, Jeff.
He’s a system fit. He addresses a need. He’s good people.
Oh, and one other thing: He’s truly blessed.
Even other NFL teams are saying this to Hayden.
“They told me I’m lucky to be alive,” Hayden said, “that I’m blessed, and if you’re good to play, you’re good to play.”
Hayden is good to play again after that terrible, wonderful day Nov. 6, 2012. On that day, during a full-contact practice with the University of Houston football team, Hayden collided with a teammate and tore the vena cava vein that connects to his heart.
He immediately clutched his chest in pain and soon lost all vision in his left eye. He was bleeding out.
Quick action by trainers, the team doctor and then emergency room surgeons had Hayden in surgery within an hour of his injury. Doctors told the player they’d have to crack him open.
“I can’t play in the next game?”
“The doctor said he was going to cut me open,” Hayden said. “I said, ‘OK, just don’t mess my abs up.’ So they cut through my sternum and saw the main vein to my heart was torn. He put some sutures in, stitched it back together, closed me up and here I am today.”
It wasn’t quite that simple. Hayden missed the final three games of the season. He went into the hospital at 190 pounds, a physical defensive back with first-round talent.
He came out weighing 166 pounds, unable to raise his arms, much less lift a weight. And his draft status seemed all but sunk.
But Hayden is apparently a pretty special kid. The injury he sustained, doctors claim, takes the life of 95 percent of the people it strikes and it normally strikes in high-speed traffic accidents where people smash into their steering wheel. The few who survive this injury typically leave the hospital in six weeks.
Hayden went home in six days.
He went home a different person physically and emotionally.
“I have a new outlook on life,” Hayden said. “All the stuff I took for granted, I don’t take for granted any more whether it’s family, friends, God.
“I’m cherishing every moment now because you never know when your time is up.
“The way I look at it now is if you’re going to do something, do it to the fullest. If I’m going to play a game, I’m going to play my hardest the whole game. I want to feel like I finished my career the way I wanted to.”
But why should that make the Dolphins interested?