Last year at this time, not many people knew the name James Haynes. Playing at Orange (Texas) West Orange-Stark in class 3A, Haynes didn't get the exposure of some other prospects in the class of 2010.
Orange is not a big town by any means. It is the last town you hit before crossing over into Louisiana. By his own admission, Haynes is a small-town guy.
"Everybody says that it's the country," Haynes said. "We saw three cars on the road at the same time the other day, and they were all spaced out and people were calling it a traffic jam."
Though it is a small town, Orange is producing a big-time talent.
Haynes attended the Texas Tech prospect camp in June and made a name for himself with a 42-inch vertical jump. He followed that up by clocking in at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Soon after, Haynes received an offer from Texas Tech. But Haynes wasn't done.
At Dave Schuman's Ultimate 100 combine in DeSoto, Texas, Haynes continued to wow scouts and coaches. He ran the second-fastest 40 time (4.51 seconds), nearly set the camp record in the standing broad jump at 10 feet 8 (the record was 10-10) and dominated in 7-on-7 drills. All of that was done after sleeping in his car to make it to the camp on time.
"The thing that was most impressive was that he had excellent body control and he can adjust to the ball in the air," national recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "When I was watching 7-on-7, I turned to (camp director) Dave Schuman and said that this kid is so much better than everybody here.
"He's not just a track kid. He had great change of direction. He played wide receiver, but there's no doubt that he could be a safety. And if he can play corner, with those ball skills and that size, there's no doubt that he can be elite."
Because of his size, athleticism and versatility, the "athlete" label is appropriate for Haynes. Despite all of his success and work at wide receiver this summer, Haynes' junior season has seen him spend most of his time on defense. He also has plans to get a heavy workload at tailback.
While he thrives on defense now, that hasn't always been the case.
"I like playing both sides of the ball, but I've recently started to grow to defense," he said. "I think it was because I was scared to hit before. I didn't really want to tell anybody, but now I love to hit."
Haynes' presence on defense bolsters an already outstanding unit for West Orange-Stark.
"Our defense is super-fast," he said. "We had the number one defense in Texas, yards per game-wise, last year, and our coach is telling us this year's team is supposed to be better.
Unfortunately for Haynes and his teammates, hurricane season has taken precedence over football season. Because of Hurricane Gustav and Hurricane Ike, the past two games have been cancelled and school has been out of session for the past two weeks.
While most students would be enjoying the break from class, Haynes is itching to hear the school bell ring again.
"I was talking to coach to see if we were going to have practice this week because school was going to start Oct. 6," he said. "That was real disappointing to me, but then they told me they were going to open up on Tuesday. I'm glad we're opening sooner than we were supposed to."
One of the cancelled games likely will be rescheduled, but the most recent cancellation was disappointing for Haynes.
"We were really looking forward to playing this last team (Jasper)," he said. "Our coach said that until we get to the playoffs, that was going to be the most athletic team we would play. It hurts to not be able to test our skills and then not be able to make it up since it's not a district game."
As is the case with many prospects in Louisiana and Texas, Haynes doesn't know for sure if any written offers have come to his school because the hurricane has shut things down. Haynes was getting a lot of mail from the likes of Arizona, Texas Tech, Texas, and North Carolina. When the doors open back up, there are two programs that Haynes will be looking at closely.
"I've been a fan of LSU and Texas Tech, I've always been fans of them," he said. "I like Texas Tech because they run that spread offense, so if I go as a wide receiver, I'll have a good chance to get on the field because they have four wide receivers.
"I like LSU because they're a real smash-mouth team and they hit you in the face, and I like that kind of play. Growing up, it was always between Texas Tech and LSU."