Underrated Haywood leads Cyclones into Big 12 battle

Paul Kix

Flip through the Big 12 football media guide. On page 40, under Iowa State’s “All-Star Candidates” title, Ennis Haywood’s name tops the list.

Rightfully so. His quick bio on the page says that on 229 carries last season, Haywood averaged 5.4 yards per carry.

But more importantly, he led the Big 12 in rushing with 1,237 yards.

Pictures line the left hand side of the stats and names.

Haywood’s picture is not his. It’s former Cyclone defensive end Reggie Hayward.

“I can go in the locker room right now and some guys are going to forget my name,” Haywood says.

He clarifies further. “You know, E-ee-nnis, Ennis, it don’t bother me.”

Haywood says he is also bothered little by the apparent lack of respect as the reigning Big 12 rushing champion.

Instead, his goals focus on helping his team win.

“As long as I can go out and help the team win, that’s the main point,” he says.

Yeah he’s underrated, ISU head coach Dan McCarney says. “That’s the way the whole program is.”

Ennis Haywood stepped from the Texas football fields onto Jack Trice Stadium touted as one of the top 16 running backs in The Dallas Morning News.

He played in all 11 games as a freshman in 1998.

No small feat, considering Darren Davis, he of the 1,166 yards on the season, preceded Haywood in the backfield.

In 1999, Davis was still around. And Haywood was improving.

In the season opener against Indiana State, Haywood rushed for 172 yards on 24 carries.

He averaged 5.1 yards on 55 carries for the year and scored three touchdowns.

In 2000, he led the conference in rushing (as we know).

But his 123.7 yards per game also ranked him 10th in the nation in rushing.

And if ever he deserves his photo to match his name, it is now.

“No question,” McCarney says, Haywood is playing the best football of his life.

“He is one of the toughest players on the team,” McCarney says.

He says Haywood’s always been so.

Only this season, Haywood plays at 220 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than his weight during his freshman and sophomore campaigns.

“He hasn’t lost any quickness,” McCarney says.

No kidding.

Through two games, Haywood’s averaging 163 yards a game, with four touchdowns.

Last week at Ohio, on fourth-and-four from the Bobcats 16-yard line inside of 20 seconds left in the game, Haywood plunged up the middle, and bounced to the left sideline where he found six yards and a first down.

Those six yards ended Ohio’s last chance at a comeback.

“My number was called,” Haywood says.

Haywood finished with 219 yards on the day.

“Every week, I wanna go out and run for 300 yards if I can,” he says.

If he doesn’t, it is not for a lack of preparation.

He watches film. Lots of it.

He can’t “count on one or two hands” all the times he screwed up last week rushing after leaving the film room.

“I try to be [a perfectionist],” he says.

“When I leave the field, I want to know I did everything I could to become better and help my team win,” Haywood says.

He left the field against Kansas State last year as a broken man. The Cyclones lost 56-10. Haywood rushed for 35 yards.

“We still have it in the back of our heads,” Haywood says.

He wants redemption this year.

“It’s just all about going back and watching yourself,” he says.

“Ennis looks forward to every game,” McCarney says.

This year: “I want to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that I am the best running back around,” Haywood says.

He wants his photo remembered.