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[Modesto Bee]Patience Pays for Hayes
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March 22, 2008 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Modesto Christian grad brings hardhat to court every night for Rockets

OAKLAND — Eighty minutes before tipoff and Chuck Hayes juggles a handful of duties.

Tickets for former Kentucky teammate and current Golden State Warrior Kalenna Azubuike. Settling an NCAA Tournament bet he lost to Houston Rockets teammate Steve Novak, whose Marquette Golden Eagles beat his GoldenWildcats. And, finally, settling into Game 69 on the NBA schedule.

Hayes, the Rockets’ worker bee in the paint, is doing off the court what he does on it — the little things that people, if they’re watching closely, admire.

“I’m trying to play according to what the team needs,” Hayes said before Friday night’s game. “It’s a blessing that I’m here and it’s a blessing that I got here. It could be a curse but it’s still a blessing.”

Hayes refers to the role no one thought was there for him in the league. If you’ve followed his already laudable career since his days at Modesto Christian, you know what was expected from him at this level — essentially, nothing.

He had no takers until the Rockets signed him to a 10-day contract — one of those “Let’s see what he’s got” dress rehearsals — in January of 2006. He’s been a Rocket ever since.

Has it been easy? Not to someone who rebounds, defends and retrieves without scoring much in the NBA. He understands he’s blessed. He also acknowledges his pigeon-holed role and the frustrations attached with it.

Hayes, 24, confronted this dilemma long ago, and he’s at peace with it. Because if he wasn’t, he’d probably be rebounding, defending and retrieving at a much less prestigious hoops address.

“When I got to Kentucky, I was told, ‘If you want to get on the court, this is what you have to do.’ I did it,” he said. “The same coach I had here before this year (Jeff Van Gundy) told me the same thing. And I want to play.”

Charles Hayes, Chuck’s father, admires his son. He also thinks he could score more points, garner more minutes and pull a few more headlines toward himself. His is a reaction where reality collides head on with fatherly love.

“This is a kid who used to be the catcher on his grammar school team and a wide receiver in football. He just had to be near the ball,” Charles said. “I think he’s capable of much more, but Chuck doesn’t like to sit.”

The Rockets like Hayes enough to look past games like Friday night. The matchup with the high-flying Warriors didn’t figure to be comfortable for his defense-first style, and it wasn’t. Hayes, struggling with mismatches, picked up three fouls in only 4:25 of the second period and never returned. Without him, the Rockets’ bench more than compensated in a 109-106 win.

“I got caught in the gray area. When in doubt, (the officials) picked 44,” he summarized. “I would have scripted it a little bit better, but we won.”

Truth to be told, it hasn’t been an easy season for Hayes (2.9 ppg, 5.4 rb), whose minutes have dwindled after he started 44 games. First-year coach Rick Adelman replaced him with 6-9 Luis Scola, a more offense-minded forward, and then rested Scola by inserting explosive rookie Carl Landry.

So much for Hayes, the Rocket often asked to put up a fight against stars such as Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Lamar Odom. If the ex-Crusader is sobered by his reduced role, he’s not letting on. Fact is, Yao Ming’s season-ending injury resulted in an opportunity, a chance for a bigger impact. And Hayes cashed in that chance during Houston’s celebrated 22-game winning streak, the last 10 minus Yao.

“I think Chuck coming off the bench knows he has to bring it more. He’s a high-energy guy. Chuck, being the professional that he is, still comes in and plays the same game,” teammate Rafer Alston praised. “You have to tip your hat to a guy who stays professional, especially in this day and age when you have so many unprofessional guys.”

Hayes’ ultimate trump card never has changed: His teams usually win. He rates the Rockets’ streak better than the 26-game run his team enjoyed at Kentucky and the 25-game streak strung together at Modesto Christian.

“People asked me if I’ve ever been involved in a streak like this before and I said, ‘I’m not new to this,’ ” he said. “But at this level, it was pretty amazing.”

Truth be told, there were more than a few observers in the NBA who thought Hayes would be a poor fit in the open-court game preferred by first-year coach Rick Adelman. Instead, Adelman found a spot for Hayes’ skills.

“He’s our best defensive big defensive man at forward. The reason we’re good defensively is a lot because of Chuck,” Adelman said. “I watched him last year and he was effective. You appreciate him more when you see him in person.”

For Hayes, more little things to do and more points to prove tonight at Phoenix.

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Blog Update: Rolling Along
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March 4, 2008 in Blog Updates

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Still Rolling

Right now, we’re on a roll. We’ve won 14 straight games heading into Sunday’s game against Denver and we didn’t lose a game in February. I haven’t been on a roll like this since high school.

The Blazers went on a roll like this earlier in the season and now we’re doing it. With the Western Conference as good as it is, it’s great to have a winning streak like this because you’re going to need every win that you can get in this playoff race.

We feel like we’ve got great chemistry. We’re doing what we want to do on the offensive end and we’re locked in defensively. We’ve just got to keep it going.

I had never heard of a team going undefeated for a whole month. That’s impressive. But in the West, it seems like everyone else is on a winning streak too. The Lakers and the Spurs keep winning. We’ve still got ground to make up.

Losing Yao

It hurts losing Yao Ming. He was having a great season and he’s such a great guy that you hate to see him get hurt. We’ve got to change our game plan and take out the big fella.

Now, we’ve got to adapt to it. Offensively, it’s going to be by committee to replace his low-post scoring. Defensively, we should be a little more feisty. We have to keep teams out of the paint because we don’t have that security back there with Yao.

Increased Role

I’ll have increased role since Yao Ming is out. I’ve just got to be ready. I have to help the team however I can and try to be productive when I’m on the court.

I was never down when I wasn’t starting and lost some playing time. That’s part of the game. We found a rhythm and coach chose to play me spot minutes. That’s fine. Whatever helps the team. During those spot minutes, we were on a 13-game winning streak. So I couldn’t be mad. I just need to be a team player.

Now, I’m being called upon again. I’ve just got to go out there and play hard.

I’ll probably draw some matchups against some big centers. But that’s fine. Whatever we need.

Disappointing Race

My 10-month old son had a tough debut in his first athletic competition. During a timeout in Tuesday’s game against Washington, my son was in the Baby Race at Toyota Center. Basically, if you haven’t seen it, the race has four babies at one end of a mat and they’re supposed to crawl to the other end before the other three.

I was expecting him to win. But when they said, “Go,” my little man did not move.

That was tough. I was bragging about him so much heading into the race. I was placing bets in the locker room. Nobody wanted to take me up on it, but they should have. He didn’t move at all. He came in a close last.

I don’t know what happened. Maybe he had stage fright. Maybe he had a big dinner and he was resting his stomach. I don’t know. But he just sat there looking at the crowd.

Unfortunately, the guys have been giving me a hard time about it in the locker room.

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Weekly Blog Update
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November 19, 2007 in Blog Updates

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November 19, 2007
Pregame Routine

I’ve had the same pregame routine ever since I came into the NBA.

Before the game, I always listen to R&B. I’ll be listening to that when I’m driving to Toyota Center. If we’re on the road, I’ll put on my iPod when we’re on the bus heading over to the arena. I got to be relaxed and cool.

When I get to the game, I go shoot. I do some pick-and-roll stuff and some dribble hand-off stuff. After that, I’m always finishing with 300 jump ropes. I got 100 with both feet, 50 on the left, 50 on the right and then another 100 alternating. Once I’m done with that, I take off my shoes and let my feet relax.

During the national anthem, I always talk to my cousin. My cousin passed away when he was 14 years old. We were really close. His dream was to play in the league so I’m always talking to him during the intros.

After the intros are done, I get nervous. I’m nervous before every game.

I started doing this routine when I got to the NBA. I never did it at Kentucky. Back then, I was just having fun. But here, I’m living the dream where I got to remember where I came from and where it all started.more at Rockets.com

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Blog update November 9, 2007
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November 10, 2007 in Blog Updates

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Stitch Work

Well, I guess I got in the way of a Hall of Famer. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game against San Antonio, I got elbowed over my right eye by Tim Duncan.

He swung his elbows through to get position on me just as I put my head in front of him. Five stitches later, I’ve got a puffy eye to show for it.

It hurt at the time and threw me into a daze for a minute. But I’m fine now.

The most interesting thing is that I couldn’t open up my eye on Wednesday morning because it was so swollen. It was fat. My son, Dorian, kept wanting to play with it. He noticed something was wrong with it so he kept wanting to grab it and touch my stitches. If he had gotten ahold of my eye, I would have needed a few more stitches.

Honestly, though, I’m used to having these puffy eyes. I’ve got scars over each of my eyes in the same location. It’s normal getting stitches between my eye lashes and eye brow because I play so tight on centers and power forwards and they tend to swing their elbows. This is the fourth time I’ve needed stitches. I’ve had two over each eye. It just happens.

Could I wear a mask to protect myself? No. I can’t play with a mask. If get stitches, so be it.

Gardner Webb?

I can’t believe Kentucky, my alma mater, lost to Gardner Webb. Gardner Webb? I thought that was maybe a children’s book before we laid an egg against them.

It just doesn’t look good when you’re one of the top programs in the country. Even if we do have a successful season, that loss is going to show up on our NCAA Tournament resume. It looks bad.

The guys in the locker room have been letting me have it. Before that upset, none of us even knew where Gardner Webb was at. Now, we all know it’s in North Carolina. The guys are saying that Kentucky might not even be an NCAA Tournament team this year. We might have to go to the NIT. I’m getting it from all angles.

I’m even hearing we’re a football school now. But I don’t believe that. We’re still a basketball school.

more at Rockets.com

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Ready to play – Chuck Blog Update
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October 26, 2007 in Blog Updates

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Let the Games Begin

I’m ready to get the season started. I’ve been been anxious for it since the end of last season. The summer and preseason have been too long so I’m glad we’re finally getting to the real games.

I really want to see what this team is going to look like with the new system and all the new talent that we have.

Obviously, I think every team is under observation at this point. We’re learning just like everyone else. We’re trying to figure out what fits. But I do feel really good about our team.

It’s way too early to guess who’s going to be good and who isn’t in the league. Obviously, you can have an idea about some teams. But the preseason projections don’t mean much. When it was all said and done, no one expected Golden State to be a playoff team. I’m just hoping we come out and start off well.

More at Rockets.com

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Blog Update!
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October 19, 2007 in NBA 07-08 Season

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Scrimmage Days

We went almost a week between preseason games, but we’ve been scrimmaging a ton over the past week.

I’ve been really happy about that. Scrimmages help so much because it’s just repetition. It gives us a chance to get used to Coach Adelman’s new system and get used to what our players can do in the system. We’re seeing what everyone can do best and how the personnel on this team fits into the system. Right now, we’re really creating a bond.

I probably haven’t scrimmaged this much since college. But that’s to be expected with a new system and a new coach. We’re all learning and we’re starting to pick it up.

More at Rockets.com

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[Chron]Hayes ‘living in the moment’
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May 2, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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The many faces of Chuck Hayes, from left: college freshman, defensive stalwart and valuable playoff contributor.
For a player once relegated to the D-League after going undrafted in 2005, postseason heroics in Games 2 and 5 are pretty heady stuff

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Nearly two years after Chuck Hayes waited by a phone that never rang, the messages came one after another through the night.

“All last night, a lot of text messages,” Hayes said Tuesday. ” ‘Good game. Way to put your body in front. Huge charge. Way to play.’ Just a bunch of little stuff.”

Not long ago, the NBA had lost Hayes’ number. He went undrafted. He was cut in the Rockets’ training camp. He was unwanted as his first season out of Kentucky began.

When the Rockets brought him back from the NBA Development League, he failed his physical and began to doubt he would have an NBA career.

Yet here he is, between such luminaries as Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. And there he was, a star in Monday night’s playoff games, right up there with Robert Horry, LeBron James and Tracy McGrady.

Hayes stepped in front of Derek Fisher’s drive to draw the charge that sealed the Rockets’ 96-92 Game 5 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The 6-6 power forward with a jump shot, plucked from the D-League to play with two of the league’s most celebrated name brands, had made the difference.

“I try not to think about it too much, but it’s one heck of a story,” Hayes said. “As much as my mind wanders and I think so much, I can’t believe where I came from. But I’m not complaining. I’m enjoying it. I’m loving it. And I’m living in the moment.”

• • •

The night of the 2005 NBA draft, Hayes sat alone. The house was full, but he banished himself to the bedroom in his parents’ home in Modesto, Calif.

“I sat in my room . . . sitting, watching it by myself,” Hayes said. “That’s where I wanted to be: by myself. I didn’t hear my name called. I had to go to summer camp. I think about the process I had to go through to get here. So many times I could have given up. My family would not allow it.

“I had a lot of doubts. ‘What more do I have to prove? What more do I have to do? Don’t my credentials speak loud enough for me?’ I doubted everything I had done at that point.”

Hayes had started all four years at Kentucky, but he was ready to believe he would never make it in the NBA. The Rockets were ready to sign him out of the D-League in December 2005, only to back off when he arrived in Houston with a sprained ankle.

“I have great support, as far as my parents and the people who have been there,” Hayes said. “They kept me in their prayers, and when the opportunity came, I took advantage of it.

“When they called me and I failed the physical, that one really hurt. That was the first time I thought maybe it’s not for me. You keep striving; you keep pushing. And when you get that opportunity, when you see that daylight of a chance, you hit it and hit it hard.”

By the second game of this season, Hayes, 23, was starting, with coach Jeff Van Gundy deciding that despite his lack of a perimeter shooting touch, Hayes’ defensive quickness, intelligence and tenacity made him a good complement to Yao.

“Chuck is a really special player,” McGrady said. “To be 6-6 and coming from being in the D-League … to being on a franchise, a first-class organization, and playing with two great players and a bunch of individuals that are really great, and to come in here and get in the starting lineup and contribute the way he did this year, it just shows you how much having confidence and hard work pays off.

“If Chuck goes out on the basketball court and plays all out with his energy and rebounding, playing great defense, running the floor, for him to be 6-6, he’s one of the best. He has great hands. He has a great basketball IQ. He just has a great feel for the game. He can be a really special player and last in this league a long time.”

There was a time, however, when Hayes thought his career might be over after 10 days.

Last season, when he was summoned to Van Gundy’s office for an 8 a.m. meeting, Hayes assumed he would be released. Instead, he was signed for the remainder of the season.

“That’s when I knew, I can play this game,” Hayes said. “I can survive in this league. The night before, we played in Minnesota. I was at the end of my 10 days and John Lucas was at the end of his second 10-day. (Van Gundy) said, ‘the media is going to want to talk about 10-day contracts. I don’t want you to even think about it.’ But it was all I could think about.

“That night, I played well. I got a call from Keith (Jones) saying coach wants to talk to you at 8 in the morning. I was nervous. I was freaking out. When I was released, it was in a meeting at 8 in the morning. When he told me, I called my mom, dad, everybody.”

More than a year later, he already has been around long enough to be used as the example of the way the Portsmouth Invitational (the pre-draft camp where Hayes was MVP) and the NBA Development League can launch a career.

“It’s pretty neat. It’s cool,” Hayes said of becoming a role model. “When I was in the D-League, they were using Rafer (Alston) and Bobby Simmons as the poster children of the D-League. ‘If they can make it, you can make it.’ Well, I guess I go on that list as guys that go from the D-League to the next level.

“It’s a competition. That’s what this game is. As a competitor, I pride myself on outworking my man. It’s a competition, and I hate to lose. It’s in me. It’s always been in me.”

• • •

This was already going to be a spring Hayes would never forget, no matter what happened on the court. The day of his Game 2 breakthrough, when he had 12 points and 12 rebounds and was called the key to the Rockets’ win, his girlfriend, Nicole Anderson, delivered their first child, Dorian Titus Hayes, hours before the game.

As much as Hayes’ success has drawn attention, he lights up at the mention of his son.

“This fatherly thing is new to me, but I’m learning,” Hayes said. “I’m trying to take everything my father (Charles Sr.) taught me to my son’s life. I’m just trying to be there, to talk to him, to let him know my touch, just be there promising I’m going to be there.”

So after the locker room cleared Monday night, after Hayes had done his national television interview for TNT and met with wave after wave of media and teasing teammates, he finally returned from the shower and leaned far back in his chair.

“Now I can go home,” he said, “and my baby will be waiting up for me.”

There were dozens of congratulatory messages there, too, but they waited until morning.

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This father knows best
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April 24, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Now that Chuck Hayes has been a father for all of three days, coach Jeff Van Gundy, the father of two, had some parenting advice for the Rockets forward.

“His kid will like him better if he gets more than one offensive rebound in a game,” Van Gundy said. “I know that personally. My daughter likes me better when we win. Everyone likes a winner. No one likes a loser. The kids, too. They jump right up on that bandwagon. And they fall right off it, too.”

Reminded he is part of a coaching family, Van Gundy said: “The whole family is a bunch of schmucks — Division III basketball Joneses.”

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Hayes delivers with little sleep
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April 24, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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After the birth of his child, forward finds the energy to help team win

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Just two days after witnessing the birth of his son, it was time for Chuck Hayes to deliver for the Rockets.

Usually one of those anonymous faces who provide the grunt-work support for Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Hayes was recognized as one of the biggest keys in Monday’s 98-90 victory over the Utah Jazz. The win, which came before a sellout crowd of 18,206 at Toyota Center, gave the Rockets a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series that resumes Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Hayes was playing on what he described as “zero sleep,” but tonight it’s the Jazz who will be up all night trying to figure out how Hayes worked them over for 12 points and 12 big rebounds.

“I just put it in my mind that I had to chase down every long rebound,” Hayes said. “When Yao is shooting the ball, the ball tends to be a soft miss. I try to get that and get it back to him. And we’re a 3-point shooting team, which means long rebounds, and I try to chase them all down.”

Hayes was mystified as to how he was able to summon the energy to wrestle with the Jazz, one of the most physical teams in the conference.

“I can’t explain what’s going on right now,” Hayes said. “I’m overwhelmed. But now I’m going to go home, I’m going to be with my mother, my baby and my girl (Nicole Anderson), and they’re going to keep me humble.

“I would think I would be dead tired, with no sleep for the past two days. I don’t know where I’m getting all this energy from. But if we can win like this, with me playing the way I did tonight with this amount of sleep, then I probably won’t sleep that much ever again.”

Hayes has been using some of that energy to apply lights-out defense on Utah center Mehmet Okur. Indeed, not only did Hayes fill up the stat column for the Rockets, but he once again kept the 6-11 Okur from doing likewise.

Okur, who averaged 17.6 points in the regular season on 46 percent shooting, has been stonewalled by Hayes and the Rockets.

Okur had only four points Monday on 2-of-9 shooting, which was sensational compared to his 2-for-14 effort in Game 1.

“I’m just trying to make him put the ball on the floor and make him dribble into a crowd,” Hayes said. “It’s a team defense, though. But he’s going to try to dig in down there and post me up because of his size, but my teammates did a good job of digging at him, making him hesitate. Once he gives the ball up I’m going to make it hard for him to get it back.”

Hayes made an immediate impact. With Yao and McGrady struggling in the first period, Hayes came to the rescue, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds — four on the offensive end — to keep the Rockets within striking distance.

“I thought in the first half, when we were struggling to score, that Chuck gave us some great second-chance opportunities,” said Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy. “He showed tremendous hustle.”

But there’s still plenty of work to be done, Hayes said.

“We took care of home court. Game 2 is just as important as Game 1.

“Their goal was to leave here with a split, but we were able to hold our ground, fight back and get the win.”

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Fatherhood beckons Hayes
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April 22, 2007 in NBA 06-07 Season

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Son born hours before Rocket’s debut in playoffs

Chuck Hayes certainly will remember April 21, 2007, the day of the Rockets’ first-round game against the Utah Jazz, his first career NBA playoff contest.

Oh, and he’ll remember the game, too.

Indeed, years from now, Hayes eventually will get around to talking about the Jazz game, but only after he regales listeners with stories about the birth of his son, Dorian Titus Hayes.

“I’m definitely not going to forget this day,” Hayes said Saturday. “Well, I can’t forget it now. A lot of things have happened today.”

The biggest of which weighed a mere 6 pounds, 7 ounces and measured 19 inches. Hayes was at Memorial Hermann to witness the birth of his first child, an experience he couldn’t put into words.

“I went numb,” Hayes said. “I really did. I was speechless. Honestly, all these things go through your mind — your life and how your parents raised you. Man, like I said, it left me speechless.”

City’s birthright

Houston has had its share of athletes’ birth experiences, most notably Oilers lineman David Williams skipping a game against New England, an event that became known as “Babygate.” Then there was Rockets teammate Tracy McGrady, who two years ago left a game against the Jazz at halftime to be with his fiancée for the birth of his daughter.And there was a bit of concern earlier Saturday that the experience would force Hayes to be absent for the Rockets’ playoff opener. But Nicole Anderson, his girlfriend, gave birth in time for Hayes to make it to Toyota Center and into the starting lineup. He scored four points and had nine rebounds in the Rockets’ 84-75 victory.

“I’ve heard stories of mothers going into labor for hours — all day,” Hayes, 23, said. “Apparently, my son wanted to get out of there quick. She was only in there for about six hours, and that was it.”

Quality competition

The 6-6 power forward has matched up with some of the game’s best during his two years in the league, trading elbows with Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Elton Brand and Kevin Garnett.But no basketball highlight could come close to the rush Hayes experienced Saturday.

“Once I saw his nose, and he had my nose, that was it for me,” Hayes said.

I was thinking about how my mother is now a grandmother, my father is now a grandfather and my sisters and brothers are aunties and uncles.”

And Hayes is a father.

“Yeah, I know,” Hayes said. “But at that moment, I thought about everyone else (in his family) except me. Yeah, I thought about everybody else, all the lives that this baby is now going to enter. It’s a great feeling.”

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