Slocomb's Jarvis Hayes

Jarvis Hayes (20) works at bandit linebacker during a recent Troy practice.

TROY – Jarvis Hayes’ smile was broader and more genuine last Saturday than the one he had forced at the start of Troy’s football camp.

The defense carried most of the day in the Trojans’ first scrimmage, but Hayes’ smile included some self-satisfaction. He and his surgically repaired shoulder had passed a test.

“Today was the first actual contact and I could feel the difference,” Hayes said, unable to mask the relief in his voice. “At first I was kind of nervous about my shoulder. After the first hit I was OK. I felt like I was back to where I needed to be. But in a way I still need to get better.”

Rehab on his torn labrum, which happened in the bowl victory over Buffalo, was grueling. The linebacker was sidelined for all of spring practice.

“I was doing a thing called ‘Muscle Beach,’” the 6-foot-4, 241-pound Slocomb native said. “I was over there working out on the side, making sure my body stayed in shape, building the strength in my arm. Now, I feel like I’m stronger in my shoulder. At first, I couldn’t lift my arm above my face.”

Being out frustrated Hayes. After the very first workout of camp – “First day back since the bowl game,” he declared – he didn’t sound particularly confident.

“I feel like I got set back farther than what I should have been,” Hayes said earlier this month. “But eventually I will progress and get better. There’s always steps to getting better.”

Hayes takes extra steps because of his ongoing treatment. He arrived before practice every morning and warms up the shoulder. After practice, he ices the joint and gets it stretched.

Following the scrimmage last Saturday, he was noticeably more confident. It wasn’t just his shoulder. Hayes is making a position change from defensive end to bandit linebacker.

“Jarvis is a dude,” teammate and fellow bandit Kevin Nixon said. “Jarvis can really play football. He’s picking up on this stuff just like I was. With him, Zo Bridges, Antonio Showers and me, I’m pretty sure we’ll be OK.”

Troy coaches want to make sure his great attitude doesn’t hurt him.

“Coming off that shoulder injury is big for him,” inside linebackers and bandits coach Bam Hardmon said. “I know he wants to do it and it’s my job to ease him into it because he’s a 100 percent effort guy. We’ve got to be smart with that.

“From an injury standpoint, his strength is there. He’s a little bandaged up for precautionary reasons. But he understands the position because it’s somewhat new for him. He has the proper technique and the work ethic to get it done. I think he’s doing real well.”

Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall said Hayes always “gives you everything he’s got.”

“He’s doing real well. We’ve got a couple guys who had the same injury and they’re still trying to come back. He acts like it never happened,” Hall said. “He’s an unbelievable person.

“I’m fortunate to get to coach a guy like that. Those guys don’t come along very often in life. He’s a great one. He’s a guy people are going to talk about at Troy for a long time. I think he’s going to have a big year and a big impact on this team.”

Camp, essentially, ends Wednesday with the start of classes. Hayes said the change in the schedule puts more time demands on the players.

“It’ll change from us having all the film time,” Hayes said. “You have to have time management. When you’re having classes, if you have a break time, that’s when you go to study hall and get extra work. So when you do go to practice, you’re not worried about homework.”

Follow Ken Rogers on Twitter @debamabeat.

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