A couple of days before visiting Michigan State and Notre Dame rekindle their rivalry, “Off the Cuff” takes a look at when Sarasota High graduate Herb Haygood broke the Fighting Irish’s collective heart.
Haygood, one of the best prep running backs to come out of the Suncoast, excelled as a wide receiver/kick returner for the Spartans and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He left East Lansing second on the school’s all-time list in kickoff return yards and kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Of the 115 passes he caught for Michigan State from 1998-2001, the biggest may have come on September 23, 2000. With Notre Dame leading the host Spartans 21-20 and 1:58 remaining on the clock, Michigan State was facing a fourth-and-10 from its own 32.
Struggling freshman quarterback Jeff Smoker zipped a pass to Haygood, who outraced the Notre Dame defense 68 yards for what proved to be the decisive score in a 27-21 victory.
Video: Smoker to Haygood for a 68-yard touchdown
“There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to go for it on fourth down,” said then-Michigan State head coach Bobby Williams. “The play we ran was just one of our regular plays and it came through. I am so happy for Herb Haygood. It was nice to see him finally break loose and make such a big play.”
Following a professional playing career that included time with the Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, Haygood became a coach at the collegiate level. He was an assistant at Olivet College (2006-07), Saginaw Valley State (2007-10) and Miami University (2011-12) and Indiana University’s associate director of player personnel in 2013 before taking his current position at Eastern Michigan’s wide receiver’s coach.