By LARRY VAUGHT
Anyone who knows DeDe Haynes knows that she is very passionate about University of Kentucky football and her son, Nick, a starting offensive lineman.
If the Cats are playing, she is watching and most often in the stadium even though she lives in Florida. Along with her husband, she finds a way to get to most games.
And bad-mouth her Cats on Twitter, and you likely will hear from her — in a loving, motherly way.
However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen her happier than when Nick graduated from Kentucky earlier this month with a degree in business and economics.
“I was so proud I could have burst into confetti,” said DeDe Haynes. “From the very beginning, Nicholas’ goal was to complete his degree. Anything more is a gift from above. We are just excited that he followed through on his goals. We were just along to provide support and guidance.
“He followed through on what he said he would do. I could not be happier or prouder. I cried at the (graduation) ceremony and was trying to hold it. But I got to thinking about when he was 4 years old and graduated from pre-K (kindergarten).”
DeDe Haynes provided a lot of “guidance” when it came to academics. Both her sons learned it was academics first or there would be no athletics.
“Nick never had to sit out, but his older brother had to. If you gave me a half-effort in school, then I had him pick which half he played in basketball,” she said. “Nicholas paid attention to that.”
She said it was not always easy for her son. He had to deal with finding out he was diabetic and then deal with the demands on his time from football.
“To go through all that and remain on point and manage to be successful was not easy,” DeDe Haynes said. “It goes back to being a student-athlete. He is a student first. I am tickled pink, blue, white, red and yellow that he got his degree.”
Nick’s first love was basketball, not football. His mother even coached his Little League basketball team. He didn’t start playing football until midway of his high school years. When he got a scholarship offer, he was stunned.
“Basketball was always in his heart, but he has come to love football,” DeDe Haynes said. “When he got a SEC offer, it was huge. But even with all that, academia is what Nicholas has always really loved. From the very beginning, any conversations with any school had to start with academics first.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops had no problem with that. DeDe Haynes praised the way the UK staff did its best to support all players academically.
“There are probably some things the coaches could do better and some things the athletes could do better,” DeDe Haynes said. “On a scale of 1 to 100, they (the coaches) would get a 93 because there is always room for improvement. But the coaches obviously did their part for Nicholas to be where he is today.”
Now the family is focused on what educational step Nick should take next. He will be a fifth-year senior and DeDe says they are “bouncing some things around” about what he should study next year.
“He’s got some decisions to make, but right now his job is to enjoy being a college graduate for a little bit,” she said. “We are going to take advantage of another year of free education, but Nick will pay it back on the field. He’s preparing to play any position, including fullback or tight end like he did in high school.
“Football is why he’s staying at Kentucky. He has friends in the banking industry and finance all over the country. He has been networking. The fact he wants to stay at Kentucky means he thinks it is going to be a dynamite year. This year is going to be absolutely amazing.
“This is going to be our year. We are coming out stronger than ever. We have about 18 returning starters. I believe this is going to be one of those special years for Kentucky football.”
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