Temptation the name of the game for Graz Giants CB Juwan Haynes

There are plenty of storylines to watch heading into the Austrian playoffs and Sunday’s semi-final between the top-seeded Dacia Vienna Vikings and the 4-4 Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants has more than its fair share.

There is the ever-present threat of an offensive explosion from Graz receiver Darrell Adam, the game-breaking ability of Vienna sack artist Leon Balogh, and the promise of dual-threat heroics from Vikings quarterback Eystin Salum. All will captivate any football fan, but for those whose TV tastes steer towards the guilty pleasure variety, there is another matchup worth watching.

By now, everyone in Europe knows that versatile Vikings import Andrew Spencer is starring as a contestant on the current season of The Bachelorette, still alive on the (obviously prerecorded) reality show with only four episodes left. What they may not know is that one of his opponents Sunday, Graz corner Juwan Haynes, had his own brush with reality dating stardom on Season 3 of Fox’s Temptation Island.

The odds of two American reality show heart-throbs smashing shoulder pads halfway across the world are minuscule, but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

“It was definitely something that not a lot of people get to experience,” Haynes says. “We were in Hawaii for about a month. It was no communication with the outside world, just us and the girls.”

Photo: K&K Photography

While the Bachelorette is practically a national pastime, Temptation Island has a much more twisted premise. Four existing couples are split from their partners and isolated with 12 attractive individuals of the opposite sex to determine the strength of their relationship. In Haynes’s opinion, that’s more compelling TV and better odds for contestants like him. Chalk that up as point one in the reality show showdown.

“They have like 15 guys with one girl,” Haynes laughed. “I don’t think I could be able to do that, but to each its own.”

While the glitz and glamor of TV are in his past, temptation is a theme that Haynes believes weighs heavy on the pivotal playoff matchup. To pull the upset,  Graz needs to be much more disciplined than they have in the past.

“Just working on your own assignment and not trying to be a hero,” Haynes stressed. “We need to limit our penalties, because we are a number two in penalties and when it comes to close games that could be the reason why you win or lose. Being more attentive in the game, being smart and knowing the down, the distance and the situation.”

Juwan Haynes on the set of “Temptation Island”

Of course, giving in to a little temptation can be a good thing. Without it, Haynes wouldn’t even be in Austria. The former Toledo Rocket thought he was done with football until former Graz head coach Martin Kocian messaged him out of the blue this offseason and he dropped everything to get back on the gridiron.

Unfortunately, Kocian and the team parted ways after a poor early start to the year, something that disappointed Haynes at the time.

“I don’t know how everybody else felt, but for someone to bring you in — to email me and bring me into the team — and then to see that person have to leave… I was a little sad to see him go,” he acknowledged. “It’s a business world. I understand that. It always happens, even in college.”

Juwan Haynes heading for the end zone against the Modling Rangers Photo: Robert Sommer

The Giants went 3-2 after the move and secured their playoff spot with strong wins in their last two games. According to Haynes, that was a testament to veteran leadership.

“With the coaching change, Daniel [Schonet] and Brandon [Gorsuch] really put it on the leaders of the team and the imports to really switch their environment and make it strong to be able to be ready for the playoffs,” he said.

Now the Giants have a chance against the heavily favored top-seed. The Vikings are the only team they trail in terms of both total and scoring offense, but the defense has been a different story. They sit second last in the league and surrendered more than 40 points in both of their regular-season matchups with Vienna.

Graz will need a strong outing on that side of the ball to advance to the Austrian Bowl and Juwan Haynes knows it will come down to himself and his teammates doing all the little things right.

“I think it’s for everybody, so I don’t hold myself differently, but winning my one-on-one match-ups,  making those tackles in space and being able to make a difference on special teams, which I have been throughout the season,” he said.

For his part, Haynes has delivered in those aspects all year, ranking fourth in Austria with 37.5 tackles to his name. One thing he doesn’t have yet is his first interception, something he acknowledges with a thinly concealed grimace but a focus on the rest of the team.

“We do have turnovers, so I’m not envious of anybody,” Haynes insisted. “As long as I am able to help the team in other ways, special teams, shutting down the top wide receivers on each team, then I don’t need an interception to be honest.”

Still, delivering his first pick in the semi-final would be a made-for-TV moment. He just hopes Eystin Salum is tempted enough to throw his way.

Watch Haynes and his teammates on the Projekt Spielberg Graz Giants take on the Dacia Vienna Vikings live on AFI.tv, Sunday, July 18 at 17:00 CET (5 pm, 11:00 am ET).

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.