red-shirting his freshman year, Hatcher grew into a tight end. He was playing both for a couple of years, tight end and defensive end, when he finally went to his coaches and said, you know, if we're going to play this spread offense and rarely use a tight end, why don't I just play defensive end.
"I just wanted to play," Hatcher said of his conversion.
Play he did. Was first noticed the second game of the season. Even though Washington State wiped out Grambling, 48-7, Hatcher was wiping out the Cougars, recording five tackles, two of which were for losses.
By time he completed the season, Hatcher had 10½ sacks and a whopping 18½ tackles for losses. Didn't take any scouting genius to figure out this raw defensive end might be able to play at the next level. And while some who knew little of him were projecting Hatcher to be a second-day pick, a few people in the know had him in their list of top 90 players.
The Cowboys selected Hatcher with the 92nd pick in the draft. Truth be known, had tight end Anthony Fasano not been there for the taking in the second round, the Cowboys might have traded down again and taken, yep, Hatcher.
Not too long afterward the Cowboys did grab him, a call came in from New England. The Patriots, owners of the ninth pick in the fourth round, basically said, you dirty rotten scoundrels. That was our guy.
Hatcher said Kansas City showed keen interest in him, too.
"But Bill Parcells sent somebody to look at me twice," Hatcher said. "And they say Bill Parcells doesn't send nobody twice to see someone."
Don't even ask Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells why he drafted Hatcher. After giving you one of those have-you-fallen-off-your-rocker looks, he basically says, all you got to do is look at him, and then know he ran that "4.7-something."
Plus, you can't ever have enough of those 6-6, 290-pounders if you are going to play a 3-4. Especially young ones, eager to mix it up in there. He knows the premium players in this defense are linebackers, meaning that's where the money goes, so you always need a bevy of young defensive lineman coming through to supplement your front.
Just look at the Steelers.
When asked about Hatcher, one member of the Cowboys organization said, "He's more athletic than Canty."
So don't be surprised if you see Hatcher working into a rotation on the right side with Canty. Don't be surprised if you see Hatcher being used in nickel pass-rush situations, possibly from inside at the tackle position.
And not kidding here: Don't be surprised if he takes over as the short-yardage/goal-line fullback from Marcus Spears, who handled that duty last year. This guy appears to be that athletic, so I'm guessing he can find something else to do on special teams, where, by the way, he blocked two kicks as a junior.
So maybe Jones wasn't dealing in hyperbole on draft day when speaking about Hatcher, saying, "Can you say Leon Lett?"
Because after simply watching these four non-pad workouts, the same person who told you about Crayton and Canty is now telling you there is just something to this Hatcher, no matter if he's known or unknown, from Jena or Geneva, if he played at Grambling or LSU . . . why if he's green or blue.
"All that went out the window when I got drafted," Hatcher said of his previous apparent anonymity. "I'm not worried about D-1, D-2 or D-3. I just want to learn the game . . . .
"And you have just one shot to prove it."
Hatcher is about ready to take that shot, and considering his family's increasing population, you can believe it will be a dedicated one at that. And in the end, maybe that is why Hatcher became so emotional when Jones called last weekend to inform him he was just about to become a Dallas Cowboy that he hung up the phone.
He couldn't talk, needing a moment to compose himself before he went any further. The kid from the one-Popeyes town was going to get his shot.
Telling you, you're going to like this guy.
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