Bellwood to honor Hayes

For a man that is retired, former Bellwood-Antis football coach and athletic director John Hayes is having a pretty eventful year.

Hayes was inducted into the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in May, and it was announced he’ll also be inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame in May of 2020.

By that time, he’ll have a football field named after him.

The Bellwood-Antis School Board voted 9-0 Tuesday night to approve a new name for the school’s football field, which will be John R. Hayes Field at Memorial Stadium. There will be a ceremony during halftime of the Oct. 25 home game against Southern Huntingdon to make it official.

“(Superintendent) Dr. (Thomas) McInroy called me (Monday) with the news about the field, and that was kind of a knockout punch,” Hayes said. “Things like that happen, but you never really expect that it’s going to happen to you. I was totally surprised and shocked at the call. I’m still kind of sitting here absorbing what all this means.”

Hayes retired after the 2017-2018 school year after winning 323 games and finishing below .500 just twice in 38 years.

“Coach Hayes will always be a Bellwood legend, and we wanted to do something to honor his name forever,” Bellwood-Antis athletic director Charlie Burch said. “Myself, the principal and the superintendent talked about a few different ways of honoring him, and we could think of nothing better than naming the field after him, because his life was lived on that field.”

While he’s proud of what he accomplished, Hayes made sure to credit the people he’s had around him.

“It has been unbelievably gratifying,” Hayes said. “I feel so honored, but at the same time, it’s so humbling. So much of what I have been able to be recognized for is the result of a lot of other people being successful. I’m very appreciative. I live with so much pride, and what I have accomplished is the result of hundreds of outstanding young men who worked hard to be successful and a great staff. They are all a key part of all we achieved, and to have the community support we have had over the years is outstanding.”

As an athletic director, Hayes hired Jim Swaney, who has led the Bellwood-Antis girls basketball team to the past two state championships. He also hired baseball coach Steve Conlon, who won the school’s only other state title in baseball in 2003.

“There were so many big games played there that I remember very fondly, and also some very disappointing ones that didn’t go our way,” Hayes said. “It was four decades of enjoyment. I went into every game thinking we were going to win, but working with the kids, and getting the kids ready was more important than winning. The kids were always prepared and ready to play. I have fond memories of so many games, and I live with those experiences and think about a game or two almost every day.”

Hayes still attends most Bellwood-Antis football games and several other sporting events throughout the year. He was told he’d be presented a temporary plaque or certificate during the Southern Huntingdon game with something more permanent to follow.

“I’m guessing it will probably be emotional,” Hayes said. “I’m an emotional guy, but this is probably more valuable than any amount of money that anyone could get. We always say you don’t coach for money, you coach for intrinsic values. When I see former players that want to talk, that’s far more important than money, and to have this honor is far more than anyone could expect.”