TAMPA, Fla. -- For Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line coach Jay Hayes, football has always been about family. For 13 years, that family was the Cincinnati Bengals, the team his Bucs will visit Friday night in their preseason opener.
Hayes coached there with his brother, Jonathan, who still serves as the tight ends coach. This week marks the first time the two will actually coach against each other.
“It'll be fun," said Jay, who is three years older than Jonathan. "My mother got us all shirts that say, ‘Mom loves you best.' So I'm going to wear that shirt."
The two were always competitive growing up, lining up one-on-one in the backyard of their childhood home in Sturgeon, Pennsylvania. Jay set records at South Fayette High School that Jonathan tried to beat.
“And I did,” Jonathan said. “The good thing is, we’re now too old to actually go out there and physically have to compete against one another. But to have his guys going against my guys – it’ll be fun to see.”
"It was very hard. But it was an opportunity," Hayes said. "Sometimes you need to clean your garage out. Thirteen years in one house -- I had stuff that I hadn't taken out of boxes from like my move at Notre Dame, at Cal, and my wife was really mad that I still had those boxes. It was just time to do something new and to experience a new challenge."
Hayes also had a long history with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. Jay and Jonathan’s mother, Florence Joy Hayes, will be driving down to Cincinnati with Marvin’s mother, Vanetta Lewis, for Friday’s game. The two families have a long history together, which made the decision for Jay to leave even more difficult.
"We grew up together. I've known him my whole life," said Jay, whose great grandparents -- Saunders and Ida Bennett -- along with Lewis' great grandparents were founding members of the First Baptist Church of McDonald, Pennsylvania. The congregation began in the Bennett's home on Railroad Street 131 years ago.
Lewis and Hayes headed to Idaho for college, and the latter played defensive line at the University of Idaho. Lewis, a linebacker, went to Idaho State, where he met Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and played for his father, Jim. Lewis and Koetter were roommates.
Hayes remembers the first time he heard about Koetter.
"We were in the same class," Hayes said. "When I was a freshman, he was a freshman. ... There was this girl I knew who said, ‘Dirk Koetter is the quarterback of Idaho State.’ I was like, ‘Who the hell is he?’ My freshman year was the first time I ever heard his name."
Hayes and Koetter eventually met through Lewis.
“I can't say that I ever did [sack him]," Hayes said of Koetter. "I don’t remember even being on the field at the same time that he was. I think we were like 2-2 against those guys in my years there, maybe 3-1."
There's another interesting twist to the story, and thankfully all those involved lived to talk about it. Hayes' father flew out to attend the Idaho-Idaho State game during Jay's freshman year, but the game was forfeited because only half the Idaho State team showed up.
"A lot of teams in the Big Sky [Conference] used to fly in these jump planes that they used to put out fires with and whatnot," Hayes said. "They did that in the fall so you had to take two planes to take your whole team. So the defensive plane takes off [from Pocatello, Idaho], and the offensive plane catches on fire. They had to turn around and go back."
Said Lewis: “We always teased them, because if the defensive players would have made it, we could have just played the game. But because the offense was there, they couldn’t play the game, because they weren’t tough enough.”
It’s those types of stories that the two Hayes brothers enjoy when they reunite, which they’ll do for a few hours at the team hotel before the game. Jonathan can also anticipate a “Happy Birthday” rendition from Jay, as the former will be turning 55 that day.
They’ll also talk some shop, although it’s a little different since they’re now coaching in different places.
“I do miss having him around,” said Jonathan, who called Jay his “mentor.”
“I could bounce things off of him,” Jonathan said. “‘How did your guys play this block? What would you do against this look?’”
They still text daily and talk on the phone three or four times a week. A big portion of those conversations are centered around their children, who have grown into exceptional athletes themselves.
Jay’s son Miles is a defensive back at William & Mary, where he’ll be a redshirt sophomore this fall. His son Jesse was a linebacker at Wisconsin. His daughter Jazmin played forward on the Lafayette College basketball team.
Jonathan’s son Jaxson is a 6-foot-10 power forward going into his senior year, and he has already received offers from Texas, Xavier, Ohio State, Purdue, Clemson, Illinois, Butler and Dayton. His daughter Jillian, a sophomore, is garnering her own share of attention on the court.
“He’s always texting me, ‘Hey I saw [Jaxson] got offered by so-and-so!’” Jonathan said. “That’s how we stay up on things with each other!”
ESPN's Katherine Terrell contributed to this report.