Homecoming Week is always a special time at North Springs. So many special things happen, including Spirit Week, the Homecoming dance, the pep rally, and of course, the Homecoming game. This year was special because a legend came home. That legend’s name is Verron Haynes.
At the beginning of halftime during the Homecoming game against North Atlanta, Dr. Eddie Ruiz, former principal of North Springs, walked out to the 50 yard line with three people and a golden football. One was a little girl about four or five years old. The next one was a tall woman with long blonde hair and very nice clothes. The third one was a short, buff African American man wearing a black blazer, nice pants, a white t-shirt, and nice black shoes. The announcer said, “Please welcome to the field North Springs alumni Verron Haynes.”
Verron Haynes, North Springs class of 1997, is a former professional football player. Haynes played from 2002-2009; most of his career was spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, with one year devoted to his hometown Atlanta Falcons. Before his NFL career, Haynes was a walk-on at the University of Georgia. After a successful career there, he was drafted in the 2002 NFL Draft in the fifth round by the Steelers. Prior to this, though, Haynes was just a Sophomore at North Springs who had never played football. The Oracle was fortunate enough to get an interview with this Spartan legend.
Verron Haynes moved as a teenager with his mother down to Sandy Springs from New York. As a sophomore, Haynes decided to try out for the football team. With no prior experience, he quickly became a leader for the Spartans and a star running back. During his tenure with the Spartans, Haynes led the team to an 11-1 record, which brought them to the state playoffs.
Haynes is modest and reflective about the influence of being a Spartan.
“I can attest and attribute a lot of my success to North Springs because that was first time I ever played football in my life,” he explained. “If it weren’t for North Springs I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Haynes also said that he had a great experience at the school.
After graduating from North Springs in 1997, Haynes was offered a full scholarship for football at Western Kentucky, which was a 1-AA school. He had a successful freshman season there, helping lead the Hilltoppers to the 1-AA semifinal. That next season he decided to challenge himself. He gave up his full ride scholarship at Western Kentucky, and decided to walk-on at Georgia. “Everyone thought I was crazy except for my mom and myself, but what you put in is what you put out in life and in everything,” he explained. With hard work and determination, he became a Georgia Bulldog. That decision to leave Western Kentucky would change Verron’s life forever.
When asked about the moment that defined his career as football player, Verron Haynes quickly answered with the words the “the Hobnail Boot play.” In 2001, when Haynes was a senior, Georgia played on the road against powerhouse Tennessee. At that time, Georgia had not won a game in Knoxville since 1980. With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Georgia was down by four with the end zone about 70 yards away. Freshman quarterback David Greene led the Bulldogs down the field. With five seconds left on about the ten yard line, Greene threw the ball to a wide open Haynes in the endzone for a touchdown and the 26-24 win for the Bulldogs. The late Georgia announcer, Larry Munson, famously said, “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot”.
After his senior year at Georgia, Verron Haynes entered the 2002 NFL Draft. Haynes was selected in the fifth round (pick number 166) by the Pittsburgh Steelers. “A lot of people come in year in and year out, year in and year out,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for someone to either seize it or end their career.
“I was truly blessed. It was a great moment to hear my name called, to get drafted, and it was an honor because during that journey, one of my goals was accomplished.”
Haynes played with the Steelers from 2002-2007. During his tenure with the team, Haynes won Superbowl XL (for the 2005 season, but played in February 2006).
“It is really surreal,” he recalls of his Super Bowl experience. “You realize the there have only been 49 teams to win the Super Bowl, and to be one of those teams is an honor.”
In 2008, Verron Haynes was released by the Steelers. In 2009, he was signed by his hometown Atlanta Falcons where he played for the whole season. He retired after that season. After retiring, Haynes worked for ESPN International for three years and got the opportunity to go to every English speaking country outside of the U.S. After his tenure with ESPN International, Haynes used his Finance degree to get a job at the large investment bank of Morgan Stanley, which had pursued Haynes since he retired. He helped them set up an economic plan for young athletes and entertainers who are newly rich. He currently lives in Woodstock.
Back to halftime at the homecoming game: After listing off Haynes’ accomplishments, Haynes was given a golden football. Ruiz explained that the Golden Football was a lifetime achievement award for North Springs athletes who are now grown up. Haynes is the perfect first recipient of this award because he owes his football career to North Springs. North Springs is where he started, and after taking big chances, a historic play, and a super bowl ring, this Golden Football reminds this North Springs legend where he started.
After receiving the award, The Oracle was lucky enough to interview him. After the interview, Haynes took a selfie with the all of ecstatic students in the student section. .