Since April 15, 2002 -- tax day ("That's why I remember it") -- Mike Haynes's job has been to help players find good jobs once they're done with pro football, or rather, once pro football is done with them. But tomorrow night, Haynes -- the Hall of Fame cornerback famous for his physical man-to-man coverage -- will be recognized for the job he did for the Patriots against opposing pass catchers from 1976-82 with a Legacy Award at the Sports Museum's third annual "The Tradition" at the FleetCenter.
The Sports Museum also will present Legacy Awards to former Bruin Johnny Bucyk, ex-Celtic K.C. Jones, former Red Sox Mo Vaughn, Patriots radio voice Gil Santos, and author and former Sports Illustrated managing editor Mark Mulvoy. The Kraft family will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"It's a special honor because of the people I'm being honored with," said Haynes, the NFL's vice president of player and employee development.
NFL Player Development is all about opportunities. The program, created in 1991 by commissioner Paul Tagliabue to assist players and their families in life off the field, serves league employees in continuing education (for players and their wives), financial education, and career internships.
"In the old days when I played," Haynes said, "the Players Association and the league office always seemed to be in a dispute. Now it's pretty clear, everybody realizes we're all in this together."
Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham, who works as a researcher and reporter in New York for Esquire magazine, and defensive end Jarvis Green, who is gaining professional experience in engine building at
A few time zones away, ex-Patriot tight end Ben Coates (assistant coach, Frankfurt Galaxy) is one of 34 current and former players interning in coaching, officiating, or operations in NFL Europe.
And Mike Vrabel will receive his degree in pre-med from Ohio State next month.
"All of our research shows that guys with degrees seem to make more during their careers, they seem to play longer, they seem to make better decisions, and they seem to be in less trouble off the field," said Haynes. Three of the league's finalists from last year -- the Patriots, Panthers, and Colts -- also are at the top of the league in number of players with college degrees, he said.
"I just think [college graduates] are better at managing their time. In the offseason, you have a lot of time, but the question is, are you prioritizing your time well? These guys are."
Haynes recently paid a visit to Harvard to discuss an entrepreneurial program at the business school as part of the league's financial education program. On the flight back to California, he sat two rows behind Corey Dillon.
"Nice guy, great player, and a great move by the Patriots," Haynes said.
The lack of such aggressive moves by management frustrated Haynes during his seven seasons in New England, six of which ended with him being selected to the Pro Bowl. He helped his hometown Los Angeles Raiders win Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 after a midseason trade brought an end to a contract dispute with the Patriots. Haynes sat out the first half of the season rather than play for New England and later claimed then-general manager Pat Sullivan lied to him about making him among the highest-paid defensive players in the game.
"It's different circumstances," Haynes said when asked if he could relate to Ty Law. "I'm not taking sides here, but back then, the team wasn't making any key moves to strengthen the team. That's the difference. Now the Patriots are more committed to getting to the Super Bowl.
"I hope they work it out. Ty, like most players, probably thinks he can play anywhere. But it's kind of nice if you can stay in one place your entire career."
For Haynes, there are no regrets and no grudges. At a recent Patriots alumni event in Boston, he and Sullivan cleared the air once and for all, Haynes said.
"It's water under the dam," he said. "At the time, he was doing what he thought was right, and I was doing what I thought was right. You live and you learn. We're both smart enough to put things like that behind us.
"I can't complain. It would have been nice to play my entire career in one location, but it didn't happen."