LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s Nick Haynes has a problem most offensive linemen don’t have to worry about: keeping his weight up.
It’s not an eating issue. Haynes has Type 1 diabetes.
At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, Haynes is listed among the lightest offensive linemen on the team. He looks slim compared to his positional colleagues. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops alluded to the health issues Haynes faces at Kentucky’s media day on Sunday.
“Nick is so important to us and such a good player, and Nick has some obstacles just with his health and keeping his weight up and all that,” Stoops said. “So guys like him, that’s a big piece of it, to keep Nick healthy and to help him make sure he can maintain his weight and things like that.”
Haynes is listed as Kentucky’s starting right guard after manning the left guard spot last season. Stoops said Haynes is on track to practice and play. Haynes elaborated on his health issues Sunday while the Wildcats were on the field talking to reporters.
“I pay attention to it 100 percent every day of my life,” Haynes said about his weight. “I’m a Type 1 diabetic. Gaining weight is not something we really like to do. It’s a little harder for me, a harder regimen. I just try to stay hopeful about it, but it’s an uphill battle that I struggle with every day.”
More than 29 million people in the U.S. are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 1 diabetes is the most common form among young people, according to the CDC.
There are measures Haynes takes that his teammates don’t have to.
“As a Type 1 diabetic, the insulin, the correct measure to take for the insulin, what we eat,” Haynes said. “I just can’t eat all the regular things that maybe someone trying to gain weight would try to eat. I can’t do that. I have to find better options for it.
“Most people could go to McDonald’s and get two 20 pieces and just eat it and gain weight. That’s not how I can gain weight.”
Kentucky’s offensive line is expected to be among the best in the conference, and Haynes is a key piece. SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic ranked the Wildcats offensive front No. 4 in the SEC. Kentucky sprang two backs — Boom Williams and Benny Snell — to 1,000-yard seasons in 2016.
And while Haynes’ résumé might be worthy of an NFL draft selection next year, his weight is something that might concern teams. But tight ends coach Vince Marrow, who serves as Kentucky’s NFL liaison, said Haynes is a “top-two” athlete on the team and among the strongest.
“If he keeps his weight on, he’s an NFL guy,” Marrow said. “The NFL likes him a lot. I’m not a doctor or anything, but who he is as a person, and how he’s battling, our team’s seen that. I think he is a leader that people look to and say, ‘OK, this is a guy who’s fighting through some things.’ ”
Landon Young is one of those players who looks at Haynes as a leader. Young, a sophomore tackle, was thrown into the mix early last season against Florida. He said Haynes took him “under his wing.”
And while he has a significant size advantage over Haynes, Young was quick to dismiss the thought that weight issues might hold back Haynes.
“He’s gotta depend more on his athleticism and his speed and his technique rather than being able to bulldoze a guy,” Young said. “It is hard for him to keep some weight, and I’ve seen that process from him going to 310 from what he is now. He can still move very well and hold his ground against a 330-pound defensive tackle.”
Haynes’ athleticism is well known. He can throw down dunks on the basketball court, and from one lane to the next, Haynes is a 300 bowler. He’s rolled five perfect games and can tell you how a synthetic bowling ball reacts to the oil that coats the lanes.
That analytical approach carries over to football.
“He is very smart about the game,” Young said. “He sees things before they even happen. Some things me as a younger player and a bunch of these other players don’t see, but we can pick up from what he sees.”
Haynes heard the offensive line hype a year ago, but said most of the praise came from how the Wildcats ran the ball. Pass protection and turnover margin are two areas of focus this season, he said. He also knows the high praise comes with a high level of expectation.
“The first time that we don’t rush for over 100 yards or whatever, don’t play well, they’ll throw us back into the pits anyway,” Haynes said.