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It's brother vs. brother in Bucs' preseason opener

Defensive line coach Jay Hayes is seen during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.
Defensive line coach Jay Hayes is seen during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.
Published Aug. 9, 2017

TAMPA — The Bucs open the preseason Friday night in Cincinnati, and Jay Hayes knows exactly which shirt he'll wear underneath his Bucs polo.

Tampa Bay's defensive line coach spent 13 years on Marvin Lewis' Bengals staff, all working alongside younger brother Jonathan, who is still Cincinnati's tight ends coach.

Friday is a family reunion and the first time the brothers have ever coached against each other.

"My mother got us all shirts that say 'Mom loves you best,' " said Jay, older by three years. "I'm going to wear that shirt."

Their mother, Joy, will be at the game — she drives down from Pittsburgh with Lewis' mother, and the exhibition will be far from meaningless for both families.

"I always look forward to seeing my brother," said Jonathan, who turns 55 on Friday. "We're a close family, and it'll be neat to see him. We all know in the NFL, nothing's forever. We were very fortunate to have as much time together. We got to enjoy having my brother around all the time."

There's a strong tie between both assistants and their head coaches as well. Jay Hayes has known Bucs coach Dirk Koetter since they were freshmen in college, playing for rivals, with Hayes at Idaho and Koetter at Idaho State.

"The first time I ever heard of Dirk Koetter, I was at school and this girl I knew is like, 'Well, Dirk Koetter is the quarterback at Idaho State,' and I was like, 'Who the hell is he?' " Hayes said. "We were 2-2 against those guys in my years there."

One of the wins was a forfeit in 1978 when the plane carrying Idaho State's offense caught fire and couldn't get to the game in time. The rivalry back and forth hasn't been lost on Koetter, nearly 30 years later.

"I was an Idaho State Bengal, and he was a DAV: a Dog-A-- Vandal from the University of Idaho," said Koetter, who also played and coached with Lewis at Idaho State. "We knew each other then, and then I met the Hayes brothers through Marvin."

Leaving Cincinnati last year, with close relationships to his brother and Lewis, wasn't easy for Jay, but he wanted a change, having built the Bengals' defensive line to one of the league's best.

"It was hard. It was very hard," he said. "Everyone was out of the house. It was a new challenge. Sometimes you need to clean your garage out. It was just time to do something new. I had built that room at Cincinnati, built that line, had a lot of success."

The Hayes brothers and Lewis go way, way back — their great-grandfathers were among the founding families of the First Baptist Church in McDonald, Pa., in 1886, and they grew up in the same town, playing basketball and football together.

Even Jonathan Hayes and Koetter have a history — they met when Koetter was an assistant at Missouri and Hayes was in a 12-year career as an NFL tight end, and both helped out at Chiefs star Bill Maas' football camp.

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The Hayes family continues to be active in athletics — Jay's three children all played college sports, and Jonathan's oldest child Jaxson, a 6-foot-11 senior at Cincinnati's Moeller High School, is a top basketball recruit, as is his daughter Jillian, already picking up scholarship offers in basketball as a sophomore.

Jay Hayes is excited about his second season with the Bucs — a healthy lineup, built around Gerald McCoy and newcomer Chris Baker inside and ends Will Gholston, Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, could be much improved as the defense's spark. That buildup begins Friday night in a stadium and city he knows well.

"We're fortunate to get a coach of his experience," Koetter said. "He's a heck of a football coach."

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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