A year ago, former Cartersville standout Hayes Linn was one of those players preparing for his first season at the next level.
Now entering his second season at the Air Force Academy, Linn has moved up the depth chart and has a year’s worth of experience under his belt as he and the Falcons begin practice Thursday.
“It’s going well,” Linn said of his experience at Air Force. “I got to travel and play special teams last year. Right now, I am the second-string free safety. The guy who’s starting is a senior who has been starting since he was a sophomore. Maybe I can make a run at a position, but right now, I’m on special teams. Hopefully, I can keep doing that until the end of the season and maybe get a spot somewhere.”
Cartersville fans will have a chance to see Linn as he will return to Georgia on Sept. 13 when Air Force plays Georgia State at the Georgia Dome.
As a freshman, Linn contributed eight tackles in nine games played as a member of the kickoff coverage unit.
“I’m happy with it,” he said of his first year. “I ended up with eight or nine tackles on the year, so I think that’s pretty good. I was on the kickoff team. That was pretty cool. We got to go to Boise State, so I got to cover kicks on the blue turf and I made a couple of tackles. I played in a couple of games against Boise State and Notre Dame, got a couple tackles here and there.
“My first tackle was in my first game last year. I got put in a game on a kickoff. I didn’t even realize I had tackled him because it was an ankle tackle and he kind of slipped over my head. It was just kind of surreal. It was like, ‘Oh, I just tackled that guy. That’s my first college tackle.’ It was a good experience to get the first one under my belt.”
Linn’s college football experience is different than many players as he is not only playing major college football in the Mountain West Conference, but he also has to manage the strenuous demands of preparing for service at a military school.
“I like it, but it’s tough,” he said. “Especially freshman year is really tough. We’re just focused on school and football now, but it’s just everything on top of everything. It’s like an Ivy League curriculum, and then you have your military and football stuff on top of that.”
Linn continues to excel academically and athletically as he did in Cartersville, where he was a standout two-way player for the Canes in addition to maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
As a receiver and defensive back on the Cartersville football team, Linn was twice named to each the all-region first-team and all-county team. He led the Canes in receiving in his senior year with 45 receptions, 723 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the secondary, Linn recorded 178 tackles and four interceptions in his junior and senior seasons while also contributing on special teams in helping Cartersville to the state semifinals in 2012.
Linn also racked up the accomplishments on the baseball diamond as he was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in 2013 while helping Cartersville to the Class AAA state championship. He finished with a 1.78 ERA over 67 innings to go along with 77 strikeouts. He also started in center field and had a .390 batting average with 29 runs, nine doubles and a home run at the plate during his final season in purple and gold.
Linn said he made it back to Cartersville for the baseball team’s run to the state championship series, but now his focus is on his new program and helping Air Force move up the conference standings after a 2-10 season in 2013.
“My short-term goal is just to stay on the travel team, travel to every game, play every game and go from there. Ultimately, the goal is always to win a starting position and play on Saturdays,” he said. “I think we’ll do well. I think two seniors were all that graduated. We had a rough season last year, a steep learning curve, but I think we have some experienced players coming back and we’ll be a lot better than we were last year.”