Some of you may remember Jason Butt as the talented sports writer from the Red & Black. Others may remember him from his delightful performance in "Angels in the Outfield." Regardless, Jason is now covering the Atlanta Falcons for CBS Sports and was kind enough to track down former Bulldog Verron Haynes for the latest in our "Catching up with..." series.
Jason Butt: After spending your entire NFL career in Pittsburgh you had to take a year off because of a knee injury. What is it like coming back to the NFL with a chance to make the Falcons, a team very close to where you played college ball?
Verron Haynes: It’s definitely refreshing. I had a chance to get some rehab on my knee and it’s back to 100 percent and I feel good. Coming back to a place where I’m known and where I went to school is a great feeling because the fans here, a lot of them are Bulldog fans as well as Falcon fans, so that plays into the favor. And the system, I can definitely attest to the hard-work system they have around here. That’s what Pittsburgh implemented when (offensive coordinator Mike) Mularkey was up there, when they drafted me. Coming here, I’m definitely in the same system. It’s definitely headed in the right direction and it helps when you are able to come play football and not think. I think that’s one of the most difficult things for a rookie. They say the speed of the game is faster, but it’s really because you are thinking so much. I have a leg up with this offense and that’s key.
JB: Now, I know you're well aware that in the NFL nothing is guaranteed. Has that crossed your mind this preseason?
VH: The one thing about it is the older you get the wiser you get. And you don’t count numbers and all that stuff. You just try to make the best out of every situation you get, and every opportunity in performing. And that’s what I’m doing now, I’m living in the now – not looking farther than today, not looking farther than the play that’s called. I’m living right here in the now and working as hard as I can every day and on every play.
JB: On this Falcons team there's you, Thomas Brown, D.J. Shockley and Tony Gilbert—all former Georgia guys. Is it easier to approach those guys in the locker room and do you get to share your experiences with each other?
VH: The Bulldog Nation is definitely running thick on the team. And we definitely have some experiences and some times where we get on other universities that are close to here and they try to rag us. But we’re pretty deep in the locker room.
JB: You're famous in Athens for "P44 Haynes," the play to beat Tennessee in 2001. What is your reaction when that's ever brought up in front of you?
VH: It’s definitely an honor. Once you look back, and that was our first time when coach Richt came and we got to implement his Finish the Drill statement that he was preaching form the time he walked on campus. It actually opened up the season for us and gave us a sense of self accomplishment and understanding of if you do the little things it will take you far.
JB: How often do you keep in touch with Mark Richt, if you're able to do so?
VH: I talked to coach Richt pretty frequently. He had me come down for the Tennessee game last year. I spoke with the team, so that was definitely cool. And I still talk to a bunch of guys that are still on the coaching staff there. That’s always going to be home for me. That’s still my family.
JB: Let's switch gears and talk about this year's Georgia team. How do you think they will fare this season?
VH: I expect great things. For one thing, the pressure is off as we all know. The one thing that I know is that coach Richt is going to have those guys working hard — and that’s going to pay dividends. I think collectively they are going to take more of a cohesive approach as a team unit, come together and gel which will make them excel.
JB: With Joe Cox waiting as long as he has to start, do you have any advice for him?
VH: He’s had a long time to grow as a quarterback. And he needs to take the experience, and enjoy it, embrace it. Another thing is as you get older and you get thrown into the fire, you see it and you learn from your mistakes. The veterans don’t make the same mistakes twice. So when he’s in there and takes his lumps and bruises along the way, it’s going to make him a more efficient quarterback.
JB: You made reference to the pressure being off Georgia this season. However, the Falcons have a lot of expectations this year. Do you think it's easier or any different to manage those expectations at the professional level than the college level?
VH: I think the main thing is what you put in is what you’re going to put out. And we’re putting in some good work. But, now that’s not guaranteed that we’re going to have success. But we’re working each and every day hard, and I think it’s going to pay dividends.
Big thanks to Jason and Verron for their time.