A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.
Our next prospect interview is with Texas State wide receiver and return man Jeremiah Haydel. We had a great conversation about his ability as a receiver, how he developed into his role on special teams, and his outlook in the NFL.
Weight: 170 pounds
Haydel arrived at Texas State as a two-star recruit back in 2017. As a receiver he saw steady improvement every year as he broke out a bit as a Senior, totaling 40 catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns on the season. The same could also be said about his abilities as a return man as he was named a First Team All-American by ESPN for his season, totaling 479 yards and a touchdown as a kick returner and 208 yards and a touchdown as a punt returner in 2020.
For his efforts, he was selected to play in the CGS College Showcase this January and was noted as a standout by many members of the media in attendance.
ZH: So you were a two-star recruit out of high school and now you are getting ready to make the jump to the NFL. How does it feel to go from being under-recruited to now being on the verge of making the NFL?
JH: Feels great. I feel like I’ve proved a lot and beat the odds so to speak. To go from being a two-star to where I am now is just a blessing. I think my dedication to the game has paid off and I think I am in a great position now and I’m just blessed and thankful man.
ZH: You were invited to the CGS All-Star game this year. What was that experience like for you?
JH: It was a good experience and I learned a lot through the seminars. They taught a lot like how to spend your money, what your money goes towards, about agents and financing and there was a lot of great informational stuff and marketing stuff as well. I got to talk to a lot of scouts (Indy was not one of them, unfortunately) and was able to go through some wide receiver drills which was great because a lot of people don’t get to do that in these times. Great experience to be able to do that.
Play of the Year
ZH: You made arguably the catch of the year early in the season with a one-handed snag in the redzone against SMU. What was going through your head during that play?
JH: It was crazy because when I saw the ball in the air and put my one hand up, I was shocked when I felt it stick in there. I was like oh man I really just caught this ball (laughs). I was like oh yeah man this is top ten for sure. It was dope and crazy man. When I got to the sideline the coaches were just hugging me and it was just a great feeling man. It is one of those moments that just sticks with you for the rest of your life.
Jeremiah Haydel with the one-handed beauty against excellent coverage. Early catch of the year candidate. pic.twitter.com/Bn88pHFib2— Cole Topham (@HamAnalysis) September 5, 2020
Punt Return vs UTSA
ZH: Now the catch was the highlight real play but the punt return against UTSA was my personal favorite. What was that moment like to return a punt for what should have been the game-winning touchdown with a minute left?
JH: Earlier I think they had scored or something had happened and we were on the sideline and the special teams coach told me that the next time they kick it to me, even if it’s bouncing or anything, to just get it and go. I just listened to him and it happened to bounce and I picked it up and did what I had to do. I took it to the house and it was crazy because that was my first game ever returning punts. It just came so naturally and I just made the play for my team. That was a crazy play too, definitely one of my crazier ones.
ZH: So how did you initially get into that role at Texas State of being the primary return guy for the team?
JH: My whole four years there I was the backup punt returner because our starter was really good, named Hutch White. I always looked at him and saw how he caught the ball and learned a lot from him so through those three years, I was going through practice and preparing as though I would get in and when I got in I returned it for a score so I think the preparation in me and learning from him certainly helped me a lot. With kick returns, I was always natural at it. My Freshman year I started on kick returns and I got a lot better each year.
Jeremiah Haydel 91 yard HOUSE CALL— Sun Belt Pages (@SBPages) September 12, 2020
Texas State has clawed back and is tied with UTSA pic.twitter.com/1jRPex4Aci
Who he watches in the NFL
ZH: So most guys in college watch NFL players at their spot to pick up pointers or just see what they are doing. Are there any NFL returners that you like to watch?
JH: I look at Deonte Harris a lot. He’s a good example of what I can be and I see a lot of me in him. He is a punt returner and kick returner and can do it all. They started to use him more as a receiver this season and I like to look at guys like that because they are a great example for me and what I’m going to be able to do at the next level.
Saints UDFA rookie Deonte Harris has been one of the best return specialists in the league this year and it continues today. pic.twitter.com/Um6BUAmngL— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) December 8, 2019
Room to grow
ZH: So I think you have a good base trait to make it early in the NFL with your return ability. What are you working on as a receiver, though, to take that next step and be a guy like Deonte Harris in the league?
JH: Being more aggressive with my hands and not catching the ball with my body as much. If I can be more aggressive with my hands and have more confidence with my hands then I think I can be a really great wide receiver in the NFL. I think like everything else it comes natural to me but I’m working through some things still.
A ~beautiful~ play from Texas State— Sun Belt Pages (@SBPages) November 21, 2020
McBride to Jeremiah Haydel puts the Bobcats back in front pic.twitter.com/MFraT88reK
ZH: What is my team getting on and off the field if they draft Jeremiah Haydel in this class?
JH: You are getting a guy who can bring a lot of value. I’m going to be one of those fifth or sixth receivers on a depth chart but you are going to want to have me because I can play special teams. I can run down a kickoff, I can return kicks, and I can also play some wide receiver. So you get a lot of versatility out of me. I’m a guy who is going to do everything I can for the team to win. I don’t ever have to play receiver to impact the game. I’m going to do whatever the team wants me to do and whatever helps the team be successful.
I always like looking at guys who will contribute as special teamers in the NFL. One of the better ones in this class is Jeremiah Haydel from Texas State. ESPN First Team All-American return man who had nearly 700 yards on kick and punt returns and 2 touchdowns last year pic.twitter.com/Zp1v6umcDA— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) February 11, 2021
Haydel just has the feel of a guy who makes a few teams over the course of an NFL career as a fifth or sixth receiver who excels as a gunner and return man. There are so many success stories of guys like this from players like Deonte Harris to two Indianapolis players in Ashton Dulin and Zach Pascal.
Chris Ballard loves getting special teams guys on day three of the draft and as UDFA’s so in a typical year I would expect interest in Haydel. However, after spending a sixth-round pick on Isaiah Rodgers last year and having two great gunners in George Odum and Dulin, I don’t think Haydel ends up in Indy. I do think he churns out a fairly solid career at the next level though.