Jacksonville man competes on ABC’s “The Bachelorette”

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Local viewers of ABC’s long-running reality show “The Bachelorette” may already be familiar with the Season 20 contestants competing for JoJo Fletcher’s affections.

But what they may not know is that one contestant, Robby Hayes, hails from Jacksonville – and until receiving a call from the show in January, the suitor himself didn’t know, either.

According to Hayes’ mother, Holly Hayes, his youngest sister submitted him for consideration.

“She nominated him over the holidays,” said Holly Hayes, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Florida Network Realty in Ponte Vedra. “They reached out to him at the beginning of the year and he was freaking out, wondering what he should do because he hadn’t even known she’d done it.”

Ultimately, he accepted the offer.

The eldest of three sons and two daughters, Robby is a 27-year-old former competitive swimmer whom his mother describes as “the most driven” and a “complete romantic.” He and his siblings were born in Jacksonville, where they attended elementary school before the family moved to Atlanta, where Robby graduated high school. After they returned in 2008, he attended Florida State University, where he was a scholarship athlete on the school’s swim team.

Hayes said she and her son share the same excitement about “The Bachelorette.”

“I’m most excited for the opportunity for him to find someone that makes him happy, who enjoys being around him and who hopefully would like to share their life with him,” she said. “And I know he’s excited about the exact same thing, and the experience of trying something he’s never done.”

With the premiere of “The Bachelorette’s” 20th season, Robby joined the cast alongside 25 other contestants vying for Fletcher’s heart. His mother offers a ringing endorsement of her son as marriage material.

“He is bright, determined and competitive, with strong family values,” she said. “And he’s funny and a good guy.”

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