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Virgen's View: Hayes makes biggest call of big game

February 06, 2012|By Steve Virgen

With a 17-year career that has featured three Super Bowls, eight divisional games, five wild-card contests and one conference championship game, Laird Hayes has had some great moments as a side judge in the NFL.

But the greatest time in his career came Sunday, when the Newport Beach resident made the right call on the biggest play on the biggest stage.

During the New York Giants' game-winning drive, quarterback Eli Manning launched a bomb toward the sideline to receiver Mario Manningham.

Hayes kept the play in front of him and called a catch, after he watched Manningham bring in the ball for a 38-yard reception with New England's Sterling Moore and Patrick Chung on the wideout.

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"That is the summit of my career," said Hayes, a former men's soccer coach at Orange Coast College, where he teaches part time. "To get the Super Bowl assignment and to have that happen is totally unbelievable."

We have the benefit of replay on TV and can see easier, in slow motion, that Manningham indeed made the catch. That makes it difficult to appreciate the type of call Hayes made. It was incredibly impressive.

Mike Pereira, the former head of NFL officials, wrote a column for Fox sports, saying it was Hayes' greatest call of his career. The headline of the story: Greatest call in Super Bowl history?

It was definitely one of the greatest. It was certainly the best call of the game. Truly remarkable.

During the play, Hayes said everything seemed to slow down. Hayes took his time and remembered what his mentors taught him: to watch the whole play.

When Manning threw the ball, Hayes watched Manningham.

"You don't watch the ball, it'll eventually get there," Hayes said.

He saw that Manningham and Moore weren't doing anything illegal.

"The ball comes in and you take your eyes off the ball and you look at the feet and then the ball," Hayes said. "I saw two feet in and I go right to the ball and make sure he had possession of it. I went to the ball, he had it."

Hayes said he wasn't surprised New England Coach Bill Belichick asked to challenge the call. The ruling was confirmed. The Giants went on to win the game, 21-17. The congratulatory calls, texts and emails came Hayes' way.

He said he received nearly 400 messages. It was a special day for Hayes, who had his wife Maggie, son Andy, and daughter Katie, at the game.

Hayes said it was surprising and a blessing to be assigned a third Super Bowl.

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