Amid all the dismissals and suspensions that would make for a great “Survivor”-esque reality TV show, Texas walk-on safety Dylan Haines is writing a feel-good, “Rudy”-esque story for the Longhorns.
Haines, a redshirt sophomore who never saw the field under former head coach Mack Brown, burst onto the scene in his first game for head coach Charlie Strong, coming up with an interception in the first half against North Texas.
“The pick came from a tipped ball, so I can’t say that I did everything,” Haines said after the game. “I was just in the right place at the right time. But to get that support from my teammates is just an awesome thing. I think that everyone loves what I’ve done and how hard I’ve worked and how I’ve come up and got my chance.”
The Lago Vista native would likely never have even been given a chance under Brown, who was very shy about playing his walk-ons. But a new coaching philosophy, combined with the dismissals and suspensions of a couple key players in the Longhorn secondary, gave Haines the playing opportunity every walk-on dreams of.
After weeks of hearing how much he had impressed coaches and teammates in practice, Texas fans quickly learned why Haines had shot up the depth chart so quickly. Aside from the 22-yard interception return, Haines recorded a tackle and looked very comfortable in the Longhorns’ new defense.
“He earned the right to be out there,” said defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. “He had an outstanding spring and outstanding camp. He tackled well, and that’s [most important.] The interception is great; I’m all for that. But when he had an opportunity to make plays and tackling, he did a good job of that.”
The Haines family has a lot of history on the 40 Acres, as Dylan’s father, John Haines, played defensive end for the Longhorns in the early 1980s. Bedford, who played with John Haines at Texas, has noticed some similarities between father and son.
“The kid is tough, [and] he’s smart,” Bedford said. “I actually played with his dad, and so he has a lot of football in him, a lot of football awareness and that’s
Dylan, too, credits much of his surprising success to his father.
“My dad is a very influential person in my life — probably the most influential,” Dylan Haines said. “He never let me get down on myself. He always pushed me to come and compete. My dad has had a huge impact.”
Now more than just John Haines’ son, Dylan, whose teammates have nicknamed “white chocolate,” is attempting to create his own legacy at Texas. Even prior to the season opener, he had impressed his coaches so much that the staff offered him a scholarship in early August.
But more important than earning the respect of the fans or his coaches is that it is very evident Haines’ teammates believe he is capable of anything.
“He comes to work every day and just shows everybody what type of player he really is and that it’s possible for anybody,” senior safety Mykkele Thompson said.
The fans may not have been chanting his name last weekend, but Haines’ inspirational story sure seems fit for Hollywood.