Eagle Editorial Board
Michael Haywood (’82) is arguably St. Thomas’ most famous and infamous alumnus.
His story is one filled triumph, misfortune and, ultimately, redemption. But before all of that, he was simply a St. Thomas student, albeit an exceptional one.
Michael Haywood began his St. Thomas career as a freshman in 1978. He was an accomplished student and was heavily involved in extra-curricular activities. He played four seasons of football, basketball and baseball and three seasons of track and field, lettering in each, while also earning a spot on the honor roll and participating in student council.
In 1981, Haywood led the St. Thomas football team to a TCIL state championship to cap off his senior season. He had a two touchdown performance in the Eagles’ resounding 35-7 victory over Dallas Jesuit.
After receiving a multitude of scholarship offers, Haywood committed to play his college ball at the University of Notre Dame under Head Coach Gerry Faust.
Haywood finally earned his spot in the rotation as a defensive back in the 1984 season and became a full-fledged starter by the beginning of the 1985 campaign. He started 15 games for the Fighting Irish in two seasons before his first major setback.
In a game against #2 Alabama in his senior season, Haywood intercepted a pass and tore his ACL after being tackled, ending his playing career.
Searching for a fresh start, he headed to the University of Minnesota to earn his graduate degree and began working as graduate assistant for the football program in 1988. By the end of his first season with the Golden Gophers, Haywood had his first coaching offer.
The US Military Academy at Westpoint offered him a position as the Defensive Backs Coach and Special Teams Coordinator and he accepted. Haywood spent two years with the Black Knights before jumping around jobs from Ohio University to Ball State University. Then he finally landed his first big break.
In 1995, Haywood was introduced as the Running Backs Coach and Special Teams Coordinator for the LSU Tigers. During his time there, he mentored LSU legend Kevin Faulk and helped lead the Tigers to a Sugar Bowl victory and a top ten finish in 2001.
Haywood moved onto the University of Texas in 2003, where he would coach one of the all-time Longhorn greats in Cedric Benson and the team would go on to win the Rose Bowl in 2004.
Haywood then returned to his Alma Mater in 2005 as Offensive Coordinator under new coach Charlie Weiss. In his four year stint with the Fighting Irish, he developed quarterbacks Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen. His strong success earned the program back-to-back BCS bowl bids and himself the 2005 AFCA NCAA assistant coach of the year award.
Finally, in 2009, all of his hard work paid off. Haywood was named Head Coach of the University of Miami (OH) Redhawks. His first season was not exactly as successful after a 1-11 finish. But in just his second year on the job, he led the team to a 9-4 record and a Mid-American Conference Championship while also earning MAC coach of the year honors.
Top programs took notice of his accomplishments and he was offered the head coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh. However, he never coached a single game or made a single recruiting trip.
After his introduction as Head Coach, Haywood was involved in an alleged dispute with his then-girlfriend and was arrested on charges of domestic violence. The University of Pittsburgh relieved him from his position three days later.
After receiving counseling and performing community service, the charges were dropped February 2012. But Haywood believes the incident is behind him and is looking forward to hopefully continue his coaching career.
“I believe you go through steps in life. I’ve put that phase of my life behind me. I’ve moved forward from that incident that occurred,” Haywood said.
“God works in mysterious ways, and he has better plans and bigger plans for me down the line. I just work day by day, find opportunities to get better, to get back into coaching and fulfill God’s word.”