The Raiders chose cornerback DJ Hayden with the 12 overall pick in the first round on Thursday. On Friday he was at the Raiders facility to address the media. Dressed in a sleek black suit with grey shirt and silver tie, he sat to answer some questions.
A modern NFL cover corner is a guy who covers, not stopping the run, do you tackle?
Hayden: I just like to make plays. If me stopping the run is making a play, then that's what I'm going to do. I just like to help the team out as much as I can. Basically just overall make plays.
You said yesterday ready for full contact, even having friends punch you in chest . . . what doctors telling you gives you such confidence?
Basically it's like any other bone break or whatever. They had to saw through my sternum and it was just a matter of time for it to heal. Eventually it's going to heal, and it's healed and like I said, me and my friends, we were kind of play-fighting a little bit and I took a couple of punches and I think I took ‘em well. I think I should be all right for that end.
When did you start realizing you'd be a Raider?
When I saw the `510' phone call and I saw it and I was, like, I had a feeling, `man, I'm going to Oakland.' I answered the phone, and I was speechless. I was just so happy it was it was one of the greatest moments in my life hands down, and I'm just so happy to be a part of the Raider Nation right now.
Have you been told you're more apt for this to happen again, or same before it happened?
The chances of it happening again are slim and none, just like it was before I got hurt. It was just a freak accident. It's never happened before on the football field. It usually happens in car accidents, and the chances of it happening again are slim and none. I'm not really worried about it. It's just one of those freak deals that just happened.
Coach Allen said you can play different styles, is there a style you prefer?
Really, I played a little off and on, depending on the down and distance and game situation, so it really doesn't matter to me. Whatever the game situation, making me feel the most comfortable, that's what I'll be doing.
Are you aware of the Raiders' cornerback history?
"Yeah, I'm aware of it. They had Charles Woodson and Willie Brown and Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes. It's almost like a DB factory and for me to be even considered to be a part of it I'm just truly thankful and truly blessed."
When the Raiders made the trade to move out of the third spot, were you in any contact with them at that point?
"My agent, he told me, ‘why don't you answer your phone?' I was like ‘I didn't get a call' and I guess they was trying to call me and it didn't go through and it and still got the person they wanted and then they got an extra pick so it worked out good."
Do you, given all that's happened to you, do you feel like the luckiest guy in the draft?
"I don't feel lucky, I feel blessed. It's just I give all the glory to God because without him, I wouldn't be here. Without him, I wouldn't be in the mind state that I'm in right. And just me trusting him in this process, when I was at my lowest moment at my mom's house to where I'm at now, it's just a true blessing. It just shows how nurturing God is and how he's a forgiving God and it just shows how powerful he is. If you just believe in him, so much good can come out of it."
Can you elaborate what went through your mind at your lowest point?
"Basically, I thought I would never walk again. I wasn't even worried about football. And this was like two weeks, three weeks out of the hospital. I'm skinny, I'm losing a lot of weight. I got scratches and bruises all over my body. I was just going through it and I look at myself in the mirror and I didn't look like the same person. Just me going through that, that was a dark time for me. I didn't ever think I'd be where I'm at right now. I just thank the Lord that I'm even here right now."
Describe the flight coming over here today thinking about what's about to unfold for you?
"I don't think it really hit me yet. I don't think it'll hit me until I actually get on that field and put the helmet on. But I haven't slept and so excited just to come out here and start this next chapter in my life. I'm really excited but I don't think it'll hit me until I actually strap the pads on."
How has your relationship changed with Trevon Stewart since the injury?
"We definitely been closer and Tre, he's like my little brother. I went on his visit, recruited him on his visit, showed him around, showed him the do's and don'ts, showed him around the whole campus and kind of the do's and don'ts of college football. He's like my little brother, he's probably texting me right now and his family and my family have good relationships and I love the kid to death."
You think he will play in the NFL some day?
"If he keeps his head straight, he will."
Are you medically cleared for full contact right now? Would you be disappointed if you were held out or paced differently than the others?
"Well, I'm medically cleared and if I was to get held out, I would be (disappointed) because I'm medically cleared. I mean, it would probably be the team worried about me by I definitely would be kind of upset not be able to practice full go with the rest of my teammates but stuff happens sometimes."
What do you attribute your meteoric rise up the draft boards?
"Maybe it was my 40. Maybe, again, it was Mel Kiper decided just to watch my film. I don't know. I don't know what it was. But I'm truly thankful that he watched it and I got a lot of late buzz. It was just a blessing, man. Just to come from where I came from, the struggles I've been through. For me to be where I'm at right now, it's a true, true blessing and I'm truly thankful."
What did you learn about yourself through all of this?
"I learned I can take a lot of IVs, a lot of pokes. I just learned that definitely my faith has gotten me through this whole process. I learned that now I'm not taking as much for granted as I used to, because you never know. You never know when your time is going to end. Everything in this world is temporary. You never know when somebody is going to come bomb us or somebody is going to come ... I don't know. You never know. Crazy stuff happens in our world every day, so I just try to soak it all in and just do right by everybody. Because you don't want to do wrong by everybody and then when they're gone, you're going to wish you did would have done right by them. I just try to do right by everybody."
When did you become a cornerback? Which CB's did you idolize?
"Players I idolized playing corner were Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis. I've been playing corner since I can remember. When I was little I played linebacker but then, once I got to high school I started to really play corner."
What about the position did you like?
"I guess I was just born to be ... I don't know, it's hard to explain. It's just I've been there so long, I've been doing it for so long, that I just love it. I just like covering receivers. It's kind of harder because you're going off what somebody else is doing. ... You're reacting off them. I guess you kind of got the toughest job. I don't mind playing it. It's fun."
What are things you need to work on?
"I just got to work on preparation and my eyes. Eye discipline. Just overall, get better, man. Just try to come in, just competing and just become a better ballplayer."
How much did you talk to the Raiders during this process?
"I actually talked to the Raiders; we sat down and had lunch in Houston before my pro day. We had a great conversation and had a great little lunch. The Raiders were actually my last visit, so I guess I saved the best for last. I feel like I can make this my home. So, I really had a good feeling about the Raiders when I left my last visit. I think I will. So, I'm glad I'm here."
Do you envision starting your rookie season?
"I would love to but I know that I'm just going to have to come in here and compete just like everybody else because I'm a rookie coming in trying to take a veteran's job. They got a family to feed, too. So, I'm just going to come in and compete and just whatever happens, happens."