Aliquippa junior Tiqwai Hayes commits to Penn State

Monday, September 25, 2023 | 4:18 PM

When Penn State assistant coach Terry Smith visited an Aliquippa football practice three years ago, he approached Quips coach Mike Warfield with a question.

Smith was ready to offer a scholarship to Tiqwai Hayes, but the running back was only a freshman.

Should he wait?

“Sometimes, when you get that attention at an early age, you stop working, you stop trying,” Warfield said Monday while remembering their conversation. “Knowing Tikey, I know he’ll never stop working, never stop trying to get better. He wants to be great, so I said, ‘Absolutely, give it to him.’”

Hayes, now a junior and one of the state’s top college recruits, committed Monday to Penn State. The Nittany Lions were one of eight hats on the table when Hayes made his announcement in the high school’s Black Box Theater.

The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Hayes said Ohio State was his other finalist, but Penn State always was his favorite.

“From the first time I got the offer (as a freshman), I wanted to go,” he said.

Hayes verbally committed over the weekend while visiting the campus to watch Saturday’s win over Iowa. He said there was a different feeling being in Beaver Stadium knowing that was now his future home.

The other hats on the table represented Pitt, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Maryland, Michigan and Michigan State. In all, he’d received close to 20 college offers.

Recruiting website rated Hayes as a four-star prospect and ranks him as the 20th nationally among junior running backs. Among all Pennsylvania recruits, he’s fifth in the 2025 graduating class.

With Hayes in the backfield, the Quips have won the past two WPIAL 4A titles, won a state championship in 2021 and were runners-up last year. Hayes rushed for 3,727 yards and scored 56 touchdowns in his first two seasons, earning all-state honors both times.

In four games this year, he’s rushed for 599 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Before his announcement Monday, Warfield told another story about Hayes’ freshman year. Hayes started that season as the team’s third- or fourth-string running back, but coaches decided to give him some carries against Beaver Falls.

“The first touch he got, he took it to the crib,” Warfield said. “The (Aliquippa) coaches looked at each other and said, ‘That’s different.’”

But Hayes still wasn’t the starter. Warfield made him earn it.

“He got another touch and another touch and another touch, and now, here we are,” said Warfield, who turned to the underclassmen in the audience. “That’s just something for you young guys to learn. Keep working. Don’t run from competition. Don’t try to hide from it.”

Penn State is typically deep in running back talent and has a commitment from Belle Vernon senior Quinton Martin, the state’s top recruit in the 2024 class. Martin is ranked as the fourth-best running back prospect nationally.

Hayes said that’s OK.

“There is going to be competition everywhere,” Hayes said. “Every college I had is going to have four stars, five stars coming in. I feel like I’m talented enough to compete with those guys.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .


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