Hayden Hatcher plans move to Kansas in early July
Hayden Hatcher always dreamed of getting the chance to play division one football. He wasn’t sure how to get noticed or get exposure over the summer. Hatcher, a linebacker, plays at Iowa Western, one of the top junior college programs in the country.
His defensive line coach told him about the Nebraska Pipeline Camp, where several college coaches would be in attendance. Hatcher signed up online for the camp, but wasn’t sure if junior college players were allowed to go through the event.
He finally got word that he could participate. Hatcher admitted he didn’t know how he would perform because he barely got any sleep.
“My coach said the camp was going to be a big deal,” Hatcher said. “I’ve never really done a football camp where I tested. I didn’t sleep much the night before.”
Little did Hatcher know his camp performance would turn the heads of the Kansas football coaches. He turned in a 4.47-40 time and recorded a vertical jump of 37-inches. Those are very strong numbers especially for a prospect coming in at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds.
“I honestly felt slow because I packed on like 30 pounds in the last couple months,” he said.
From the start of the camp Hatcher noticed Les Miles and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot following him around. Then he got a big surprise.
“Someone pulled me aside and said Les Miles wants to talk to you,” he recalled. “I don't get starstruck usually. I went over and I was talking to Les Miles. It was just insane.”
When Hatcher ran his first time of 4.49, they asked him to run it again.
“I ran it and they were all shocked,” Hatcher said. “They're like, can you do that again? Because they thought they got a bum time or something.”
His next time was even better at 4.47.
Shortly after the camp the Jayhawks extended him a scholarship offer. Last weekend he took an unofficial visit to meet with the coaches and get a closer look into the Kansas program.
“Everything is getting redone,” Hatcher said of the facilities. “I saw the new indoor facility. I saw the plans for the stadium. It was so exciting to me. It felt like with Les coming in everything is improving.
“Coach Elliot and Coach Miles told me they see me as a middle linebacker. Somebody in third down situations who can be put on the edge and rush the passer, and play a lot of special teams.”
After the Jayhawks offered, Hatcher said his Twitter feed was “blowing up” from college coaches. However, many of them believed he would return to Iowa Western since he is going into his sophomore season.
He was a qualifier out of high school making him eligible to leave and join a four-year college program. After his visit and speaking with the Kansas staff he decided he will leave after completing summer courses and arrive in Lawrence soon.
“I talked to Coach Heck (Jeff Hecklinski) today,” Hatcher said. “He told me that he would like me to finish some summer classes and then come down the weekend after the Fourth of July. I will start working out with the team and be eligible to play this season.”
Everything moved fast for Hatcher. He was a four-sport athlete in high school, and this is the first time his full focus has been on football. His father Chris is in the Iowa Hall of Fame and played a year for the Kansas City Royals.
He’s heard a lot of good things from Malcolm Lee. Last year the two played on the defensive line at Iowa Western. Lee signed with Kansas last December and is already on campus.
“He (Lee) was a huge help to me because I got moved to defensive end and I had never played there in my life,” he said. “He took me under his wing and helped me out. I was so happy for him when he committed to Kansas. Then all of a sudden, I had a Kansas offer. When he found out I was on my visit, he was excited. I’m glad to be teammates with him again.”