Malibu Kelly Hayes is the best — and most famous — spotter in football.
Hayes serves as a second set of eyes for the incomparable Al Michaels during telecasts of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. For three hours each week, he is part of the game. Perched at the 50-yard line high atop the field, Hayes watches each play intently, keeping track of who made the play and relaying that information to Michaels, all in a nano-second.
Incredibly consistent, Hayes has the best part-time gig in football. He somehow landed in the NFL version of Camelot, where has shined in some of the game’s biggest moments. In the thrilling final seconds of Super Bowl XXXIV, when Rams linebacker Mike Jones chased down the Titans Kevin Dyson on the one-yard line to clinch the game for St. Louis, it was Malibu Kelly Hayes who came up with their names and numbers, allowing Michaels to nail the final call of the game with precision. A decade-and-a-half later – in the most-watched broadcast in television history — Hayes spotted that it was Malcolm Butler who intercepted Russell Wilson’s ill-fated pass at the goal line that secured Super Bowl XLIX for the New England Patriots.
Hayes has also worked college football with Keith Jackson and Dan Fouts, but his main gig has been with Michaels, where he has followed the legendary broadcaster from Monday Night games to NBC Sunday Night Football, the Ed Sullivan Show of its era.
Hayes grew up in Malibu Canyon, California, where he surfed a lot. He played Pop Warner football in Venice, then wide receiver at Palisades High School, where he competed against future NFL stars Warren Moon and Wendell Tyler. While a Boston University student, Hayes went to golf’s U.S. Open to research his thesis on how television networks covered it. That led to working at ABC as a “gofer.” Hearing that play-by-play man Al Michaels was looking for a spotter, Hayes raised his hand. He then showed up in Lincoln to work a Nebraska – Penn State game, as a college senior. “I had no clue, and it was pretty clear,” recalled Hayes. “My spotting board was a monstrosity.”
Since that game in 1978, Michaels hasn’t called a play without Malibu Kelly Hayes at his left elbow. Now in their 34th season together, the dynamic duo has been paired for a dozen Super Bowls. Hayes has spotted more than 700 straight games without a miss, first for ABC’s Monday Night Football and now with NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the number one-rated television program in America for an unprecedented eight consecutive years.
An avid writer, surfer, skier and philanthropist, the 63-year-old Hayes is indefatigable. Each week, he travels from his home in Aspen to the site of the Sunday Night game. Hayes spends about ten hours a week on his spotting board, where stats and notes are organized, so he can point them out to Michaels. Equipped with a custom Maven spotting scope and B.1 8 x 42 binoculars, Hayes not only identifies who carried the ball or made the tackle but assists Michaels in keeping track of who’s in and out of the game.
In the fast-paced NFL, where changes take place before every snap – it’s the football equivalent of being an air traffic controller. And nobody is more adept at the task than Malibu Kelly Hayes. Along with stat man George Hill, producer Fred Gaudelli, director Drew Esocoff, and the trio of Michaels, Chris Collingsworth and Michelle Tofoya, Hayes is an important part of the best broadcast team in America.
Like Mean Joe Greene and Sugar Ray Leonard, Malibu has become a part of Kelly Hayes’ name.
Admittedly obsessive, Hayes jogs every day, including pregame runs around stadiums. To celebrate his 60th birthday in the summer of 2016, Malibu Kelly decided to direct his passion for running toward an organization important to him. He embarked upon The Running Decathlon, which consists of the ten most widely-run track events. Hayes’ goal was to run each race “half as fast,” or in twice the time, of the current world record in each event. And he aimed to attempt each on the very tracks or stadiums in which the records were set.
His quest became race2walk2016, a fundraising effort for the Bridging Bionics Foundation. The non-profit organization provides bionic exoskeletons that allow those with spinal injuries to rise from their wheelchairs and actually take assisted walks. Hayes’ intent was to help raise funds to purchase one of these $90,000 suits, and his runs – which ranged from a 100-meter dash to a marathon — raised over $175,000 for the foundation.
For 34 years, Michaels has ended each football telecast with, “And thanks to Malibu Kelly Hayes, our spotter in the booth.” Barry Switzer once used it as a funny reference in a postgame news conference.
Hayes moved to Aspen in 1993 with his wife Linda, whom he met at Boston University. The couple has been married 41 years. Malibu Kelly is a wine enthusiast and pens “WineInk,” a weekly column for the Aspen Times. Kelly J. Hayes lives in what he refers to as the “soon-to-be-designated appellation of Old Snowmass.” Tune in this week’s SNF telecast, when the Colts travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs: and enjoy observing the best spotter in football performing his craft.