The Star has counted down the top 22 high school football players in Southern Arizona. Up next: No. 3, Cienega receiver/defensive back Terrell Hayward.

Name: Terrell Hayward

The rundown: Hayward is a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior at Cienega.

Who he is: Hayward is Pat Nugent’s Swiss army knife and the ultimate renaissance man. Last season, Hayward played both running back and wide receiver and was Jamarye Joiner’s top target with 1,021 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

With Joiner now taking snaps at UA, the Bobcats lose nearly 4,000 yards of offense from a season ago. After starting for the Bobcats the previous two seasons, Hayward should be the voice of the locker room.

“I was a big contributor last year and now it’s just time to up my game off the field and be the one that people look up to,” Hayward said.

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Hayward pulled in a Hail Mary catch in the quarterfinals last year. He wants to step up his defensive game in 2018.

Hayward caught two interceptions as a cornerback in 2017. Nugent compared Hayward’s junior season on defense to former New York Jets star Darrelle Revis. When Hayward was on defense, quarterbacks turned their cheek and looked the other way.

In order to get the most out of Cienega’s best player, Nugent moved Hayward to safety, a decision he was ecstatic about.

“I’m going to kind of be like a centerfielder out there and use my speed to get from sideline to sideline,” Hayward said. “I feel like going into this year, I have to be a bigger contributor on defense instead of locking down just one side.”

Hayward produces on all levels of the game, including special teams. He averaged 46.2 yards per kick return last season. He'll be on the field at all times for Cienega as the Bobcats look for a deep playoff run for the third straight season.

Proof he’s good: Hayward has seen interest from Division I colleges including Arizona and Wyoming, but neither school has yet to offer a scholarship. Hayward currently holds offers from Air Force, South Dakota State, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Fordham and UC Davis.

Hayward took an unofficial visit to San Jose State in June and attended the Stanford football camp.

He said it: “He’s just gotten better each year. When you talk about growth for Terrell, I just don’t know how much growing he can do. We call him a superstar. He’s done everything that we’ve asked him to do whether it’s cornerback, safety, running the ball, catching the ball, returns. I’ve been around a long time and he’s one of the top kids that I’ve ever had. He had such a tremendous year as a junior, I can’t even imagine what he’s going to do as a senior. … If the kid was three inches taller, every school in the nation would be recruiting him. That’s the type of player that he is.” — Nugent


Sports producer

Justin Spears is an award-winning sports journalist and Tucson native. He can be reached at jspears@tucson.com. On Twitter @justinesports.