Hayes Pullard sat captivated on his couch, watching Daenerys Targaryen fly her dragon into King’s Landing for a meeting with Cersei Lannister.
Pretty much any other person watching the season finale of “Game of Thrones” would have ignored his phone when it buzzed. But for Pullard, finishing the highly-anticipated episode would have to wait.
He was about to learn his own fate.
Only 24 hours earlier, Pullard was shocked to learn his two-year stint in Jacksonville had come to an end. Instead of letting the unknown consume him, the linebacker binge-watched all the “Game of Thrones” episodes he missed during training camp and the preseason.
Finally he got the call, and he couldn’t believe his luck.
The 25-year old was coming home.
An L.A. native who also played collegiately at USC, Pullard would get to play in front of his friends and family with the Bolts. Not only that, he grew up in Inglewood, where the Chargers’ new home is currently being constructed. Add in getting to play for his former head coach in Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley and it almost seemed too good to be true.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. “I feel blessed by God. This is a great opportunity to come to a great organization playing back in L.A. This is a huge homecoming. I could never imagine this. Being a kid, hearing how there used to be teams in Los Angeles, and now the new stadium being (built) a block away from my mom’s house, it’s just a great feeling. It’s just amazing.”
A four-year starter at USC, Pullard is driven to have the same level of success with the Bolts as he did with the Trojans. While he has countless friends and family in the area, it was a familiar face at Hoag Performance Center that meant the world to him.
“Oh man!” he said excitedly. “We had a warm hug and big smiles. It sent chills down my spine. It was great seeing Gus. He brought me into (Jacksonville) and gave me the opportunity. So it’s another thing that makes this an awesome opportunity. I’m ready to keep my head down and get (to work). This has been a blessing in disguise.”
Truth be told, Pullard had a feeling being cut by the Jags would work out for the best. That’s why he had an unusual reaction when he learned the news.
“I was sitting in the special teams meeting room when they said, ‘Hayes, come here.’ I knew what that meant. It happened to me before in Cleveland. But for some reason I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t sad or anything. I walked out of that meeting, and I saw my teammates and I was just smiling. They were all upset, but I was laughing. I wasn’t happy about the situation, but I felt that something better was out there for me. Then I was watching TV and got the call from Gus, my agent and (called) my family. It was a blessing in disguise.”
Still, Pullard knows his feel-good story won’t continue unless he produces on the field.
The athletic, 6-0, 235-pound linebacker totaled 33 tackles in 24 games while playing for Bradley in Jacksonville. He believes his familiarity with the system should make the transition a seamless one at both the MIKE and WILL positions.
He’s also motivated to make his presence felt on the third side of the ball.
“It doesn’t matter where I play; I just want to contribute whether it’s on defense or special teams. This is the same system, so it’s a great opportunity to come here. I take pride in special teams 100-percent. People say offense wins games, defense wins championships. But special teams plays a big role. Kickoff is the first rep of defense. Kickoff return is the first rep of offense. People don’t look at it that way, but I feel you kind of have to. So I take that very seriously.”