Justice Haynes caught people off guard.
The No. 1 driver in the 2023 class has long been considered the skinny of Georgia. According to Haynes, that thought even penetrated the minds of the Alabama coaching staff.
But on July 17, Haynes flipped the script. Bulldog Heritage has announced his commitment to Alabama over Georgia and Ohio State.
“The message I got was that I could go in there and be great,” says Haynes. “Bama has a lot of great running defenders and I could be the next great defender after Bama.”
Georgia was considered the leader for much of Haynes’ recruitment. As his progress goes down this summer, Alabama and Ohio State join the Bulldogs as the frontrunners. Each school received an official visit from Haynes in June.
That official visit to Tuscaloosa is what catapulted the Crimson Tide to the front line. Haynes took time for everyone to get on and off the show, watching behind the curtain on the show Nick Saban had built.
“Everywhere I go, you will have great amenities, flashy things will be there,” says Haynes. “It’s really the people who made this place. You can have the most amazing facilities in the world, but if you don’t have good people working, the facility doesn’t matter. So the people in Bama, it has facilities, but that makes it special. That’s when Bama, I feel at home when in Bama.”
The message from Georgia went from a legacy to a legend of his own. The message from Bama has a similar tone – go to Tuscaloosa and be the next in a long string of elites re-running the Crimson Tide.
Haynes knows that Saban and the backing of coach Robert Gillespie will push him to be his best. He also considered how strength and conditioning program would shape him to be the best athlete and person he could be.
“They’ll do a baseline test, figure out where your weakness is, and they’ll turn that into your strength,” says Haynes. “You will also continue your strengths and make those strengths stronger. You will continue just to continue to grow in everything. They have a specific plan for you. Each person. play has a different plan. Any guy on the team, Will Anderson, he has a plan of his own. I also have my own plans. “
The relationship with Saban also stands out for Haynes. While he says most see him screaming on the sidelines during games, Haynes has also seen a different side of him throughout the recruiting process.
“I spent a lot of time with him during my official visit,” says Haynes. “We hang out at the lake at his house, he eats dinner, just chats casually with him. He’s such an easy-going guy and easy to talk to when you get to know him. Always making jokes, you can tell the players love him Just be with him, really get to know him I love basketball he played basketball with me Just like that, great coach , great guy.”
Haynes phoned Saban and Gillespie to inform them of his decision on Saturday, the day before he committed. With most considering Haynes a Georgia lock, the news came as a shock.
“Coach Gillespie said, ‘Well,'” Haynes said. “I think a lot of them think Georgia. Saban said one thing, he said, ‘That just made my day, to be honest. I didn’t expect it.” A lot of them, I don’t think they thought they had a really crazy shot. But they did. ”
Haynes plans to enroll in Alabama in January. Upon arriving on campus, he plans to fulfill the vision Gillespie and Saban have for him as the next great run back to wear the crimson and white suit.
“I’d say it’s me and me every day, be the best player I can be every day,” Haynes said. “You can get better or worse every day. My goal every day is to be one percent better. There’s always someone working. You have to work harder than that person. I’ll get in there, just be.” Work hard, be humble, just pave the way for me to greatness.”