The year was 2001, and No. 6 Tennessee had just scored the go-ahead touchdown against unranked Georgia in Neyland Stadium. There were 39 seconds left on the clock and 59 yards to the end zone when Georgia's offense took the field.
The Bulldogs drove to the 6-yard line with 10 seconds left in the game. That’s when first-year head coach Mark Richt called “P-44 Haynes,” a designed pass play meant for running back Verron Haynes.
Greene faked a handoff to Haynes, who slipped through the line and set up in the middle of the end zone. Greene tossed it over the line to Haynes, who caught it to upset Tennessee ― something that hadn’t been done in Knoxville, Tennessee, since 1980.
Most people remember this as the “Hobnail Boot” play, as the late Larry Munson called it on the radio. It's easily the most famous play of Haynes' career.
Haynes never graduated from Georgia. He was two classes short when he left Georgia for the NFL after being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002. He spent seven years with the team and won the 2005 Super Bowl.
On Dec. 16, Haynes walked across the stage at Stegeman Coliseum as a graduate of the University of Georgia, 18 years in the making.
The reason the play that made Haynes a Georgia legend was possible was because the team believed in what Richt was doing with the program in his first year. They believed in the changes he was making and the motto he set for the team was resonating with each player: “Finish the drill.”
Haynes believes that’s what helped them win the game. Each player on the field wanted to finish what they started. That’s why Haynes has lived his life with that same motto ever since. Even as he got married and had children.
“Now it’s coming full circle,” Haynes said. “I finally saw it resonating, not only in me but into my kid’s lives.”
That motto is something he doesn’t take lightly. And when Haynes says he applies it to everything he does, he’s not joking.
Three years ago, he finished one of his remaining two classes, precalculus. This past semester he finished the other, calculus, to complete his finance degree. He did all of it without his family knowing. Not even his wife knew what he had been up to.
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Haynes said. “I sent out a group text last week inviting everyone to my graduation, and the response I got was surreal.”
It was a moment Haynes said will stay with him for a long time. Mostly because of his oldest son, Justice Haynes’, response. Ten simple words made all of the work worth it for him.
“Way to finish the drill! I’m so proud of you,” the text read.
“It’s very inspiring,” Justice said. “He always tells us to start what we finish and he’s leading by example.”
Haynes couldn’t help but share that moment with his former coach. So he sent a message to Richt letting him know of his accomplishment and how the way he coached the team is how he has tried to raise his family.
“He responded saying that it brought tears to his eyes,” Haynes said. “So I guess that right there makes it all worth it. Finish everything.”