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Height doesn’t measure heart

September 22, 2018

“He’s too small!”

Bryce Hayman’s heard it for years, no matter what the sport. Sometimes, they’re whispers. Sometimes, they’re louder, much louder.

Michigan City’s 5-foot-6 senior quarterback can’t say he doesn’t care. He does. It just doesn’t bother him as much anymore. It only motivates him.

“All my life, I’ve been small,” Hayman said. “It runs in the family. No one would take a chance on me when I was little. A couple baseball recruiters, when I go to a camp, tell me I have the talent to play Division I, it’s just if someone will take a chance on you because of your height. People still hate on it. It just drives me. (The chip) sits on my shoulders every day. It will never leave.”

A few years ago, Hayman came across Marcus Stroman’s “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart,” a trademarked slogan for the Blue Jays’ 5-foot-8 pitcher who is his favorite player. He begged his mom to let him get the HDMH acronym tattooed on his left arm and after she conceded, his dad signed the OK for him to do it. Hayman had baseball stitches added to the hand-made design, which is a daily reminder to him.

“I live by that every day,” he said. “All the little kids coming up who are going to be small, I want them to see height doesn’t measure heart. You can do whatever you want, you just have to work at it.”

Wolves coach Phil Mason absolutely loves it.

“The neat thing about Bryce is he’s a real competitor. He wants to win and gives everything he’s got,” Mason said. “You couldn’t ask for a better kid at the quarterback position. He’s easy to coach. He takes responsibility for his mistakes. All the intangibles overcome the physical attribute, which is his height.”

A QB prior to last season, when he moved to receiver, Hayman wasn’t a shoe-in to start this year. Beau Lombardi, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound son of Wolves assistant Tony Lombardi, practiced with M.C. in the summer and Hayman quietly accepted his role as a slot and a backup signal-caller.

“He didn’t bat an eye,” Mason said. “He was like, just put me somewhere, I’ll contribute, I’ll make plays.”

When the younger Lombardi decided to go back to school in West Des Moines, Iowa, the job was Hayman’s.

“I was happy for Bryce,” Mason said. “He deserved the opportunity.”

Not that it’s been a piece of cake. Hayman’s height can be an issue against tall defensive linemen, as it was versus Valpo, which knocked down several of his passes in a 14-7 Wolves loss.

“People asked me, are you looking at somebody else?” Mason said. “I said, no way. I’ve been lucky as a high school coach to have some great quarterbacks, some unique quarterbacks. It makes scheming a lot of fun.”

Actually listed at 5-9, Hayman is quick and elusive, a skill set he’s developed through speed training, footwork drills and weight lifting.

“I never grew,” he said. “All I did was pack on muscle. I’ve gotten a lot faster.

He’s dangerous on the move, in the read option and on the scramble, but he can function in the pocket, too.

“The Valpo game, I could hear people in the stands, he’s too short. It kind of made me mad, but I just came out the next week and worked as hard as I could,” he said. “The coaches are trying to have me get rid of the ball as quick as I can. The longer I wait, obviously the more time they have to come get me. It’s making better reads, finding certain windows. I just have to execute. It’s gone pretty good. There are still some things I need to get used to, like the speed of the game, some of the reads.”

Hayman will play baseball at Heartland Community College, a two-year school in Illinois, with hopes of jumping to a D-I eventually, like former City star Logan Kaletha, who took that route to get to IU.

“Baseball’s his first sport, but he’s a kid who wants to be a high school athlete,” Mason said. “He’s a great player.”

As the season moves on, Mason expects to feature Hayman more in the running game. He just doesn’t want him to be taking too many cringe-worthy hits, the likes of which he’s already absorbed a few times.

“He’s a quick out-of-the-pocket guy who if he doesn’t see a read right away, he’s OK with diving into a gap and getting three, five yards,” Mason said. “As tough as he is, I just have to remember what he is. I just can’t put him in situations where he’s susceptible to something.”

For all the criticism Hayman’s heard about his stature, it’s still clear in talking to him that no one will ever be harder on him than himself.

“I put a lot on me,” he said. “That’s just how I am. It’s kind of hard to stop that. I think we’ll be fine. We’ve got some cats. These guys love me and I love them to death. That’s all that matters.”

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