Football rewards toughness and grit, sometimes all the way to the point of self-destruction, and Daryl Hayes's story is a prime example of that.
Hayes is the head coach at St. John's Catholic Prep in Buckeyestown, Md., and on Saturday Hayes coached half his team's game while suffering a prolonged heart attack.
Hayes began feeling symptoms at halftime, when a blood clot began blocking an artery that connects to his heart's left ventricle. Thinking it was indigestion, Hayes texted his wife Kelly to see if she had any mints, but otherwise he kept coaching. Hayes remained on the sideline through the second half, through the postgame and even conducted an interview before seeking medical attention.
"For Daryl, it just felt like regular chest pain that got worse and worse," Kelly Hayes told the Frederick News Post. "He told me later he didn't really get spooked until his left arm and part of his leg started going numb."
Hayes' players and assistants didn't know anything was wrong with their head coach. In fact, their only clue that he was experiencing symptoms of a disease that kills one American every 36 seconds is that he acted calmer than usual on the sidelines.
"I didn't know," said Vikings assistant coach Kevin O'Rourke. "We're on the headphones, we're talking, we're coaching football. He never stopped.
"In fact, I remarked to another coach last night after the game that he seemed the calmest he had ever been coaching," O'Rourke said. "He's quite animated, he's passionate. You know, he's a football coach."
The kicker: Hayes risked his life to coach his team through a game they lost 53-0. A West Virginia resident who commutes 50 miles each way to practice, Hayes spent Saturday night and Sunday in the hospital before being discharged Monday; he's expected to make a full recovery.
St. John's played a delayed schedule this year due to the pandemic, and Saturday's game was the last of just three scheduled games.
Knowing this could be his seniors' final game, Hayes was committed to seeing it through. All the way through.