By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Tipton County resident Jon McGarth is a big fan of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
Over the years McGarth has accumulated many favorite players. But if you ask him who is his favorite football player as of 2020, he will say his son Gavin Haynes of the Brighton Cardinals.
“My dad actually pushed me,” Haynes said. “He’s a big football fan. He loves Cortland Finnegan former Tennessee Titan. Now he’s a Derrick Henry fan, Dorey Jackson fan. Growing up all he did was talk about football.
“So I was like, ‘Why not? I’m going to learn about football so might as well play football,’” he continued. “I played football and he has never missed a game in my whole life. My real dad has missed most of my games. My mom will missed here or there. But my stepfather has been there for every single game.”
Taking on the role as Haynes’ stepfather years ago, McGarth along with is wife Ashley moved to Tipton County about six years ago for better opportunities for their son. Born in Jackson and living in Memphis, the move to Brighton was a whole new world for Haynes.
Trying to find his footing at Brighton High School, Haynes’ next move after football was joining the wrestling team.
“I was actually going to quit wrestling my ninth grade year,” he recalled. “My mom told me there should be a reason you won’t keep going. She told me to keep going because it might help out with stuff like college.
“Honestly now I see it working,” Haynes continued. “I’m actually getting seen by people. I’ve actually had some college visits and people come to see me wrestle. I’ve had multiple people ask about me now. Just because my mother, father and people in the media recognizing me.”
Haynes being one of the top wrestlers in the 170-pound division in the state and one of the defensive leaders on the Cardinal line earned him a nomination for 2020 The Millington Star Male Athlete of the Year.
Humbled and surprised by the recognition, Haynes said other recent awards and accolades wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for that push from his stepfather.
“He was probably one of the biggest people to help me out,” he recalled. “I was a little kid, scared. I didn’t have anybody out there for me. My mom didn’t trust anybody else. This man came into my life and made me pretty much the young man I am today, respectful to everybody, sweet to everybody. But when it comes to the field, it’s business time. It’s time to take care of business. He pretty much changed my life.”
Haynes said the work ethic of both his parents has influenced him to have the focus it takes to perform around 200 pounds during the football season. Then when it is time to hit the mate in the winter, he trims to 170 pounds.
“Some of us have that discipline in this generation,” Haynes said. “I definitely do. I can tell you multiple teenagers who can. But the difference between me and that other guy, I’m 40 pounds lighter and I can easily throw you around 20 pounds less. I’m going to go down and throw you over. I think I can go all the way 20 pounds less on the field.’
Haynes said the skills from the mat help him along the defensive line and line backing corps.
“Wrestling is balance, stay low to the ground,” Haynes noted. “You do not stand up one time while wrestling. That’s the way I am in football. I win every time because I am the lowest man to the ground.
“Like in wrestling, if I grip you in football I am taking you to the ground,” he added. “”I will tackle you by your jersey if I have to. I have a stronger grip, lower center of gravity and better footwork. Those three things help me athleticwise.”
Then when it is time for Haynes to perform on the mat, he takes some of his gridiron ways to the circle.
“What I bring from football to wrestling definitely power,” he noted. “The coaches have been teaching me better ways to front squat and stuff like that. That’s been helping me pick up people easier and throw them around. Football is the family. That helps me out more than anything. They motivate me and push me. Having family makes things a lot easier in life.”
Haynes has missed that quality family time at BHS with restrictions from the global pandemic. That time away from practice, coaches and teammates has changed his perspective.
“I know I’ve had three years of good wrestling,” he said. “If it happens it happens. But I am not going to stop because I want to go to college and wrestle. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll feel sorry but I will make the best out of it.
“The most important thing is making sure everybody stays safe,” Haynes continued. “If we actually do wrestle, I’m going all out. I’m going to stay strong just in case we do wrestle.”
Haynes hopes in 2020-21 he will have a chance to play in front of his dad one more season and give his mom something to shout about during wrestling season. And he wants a bonus, winning the Male Athlete of the Year.
“It was hard for me to believe it that I was nominated,” Haynes concluded. “I never thought of myself as an athlete like that. I’m decent at football. I go out there and just try to run through the hits. I’m not that little kid anymore. I’m really honored and blessed.”