|If something goes wrong, Harvard Guy ready to step in as LSU quarterback|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 06 January 2008 13:46|
That would be The Harvard Guy.
Andrew Hatch admits he took an odd path to the Tigers. It included playing in the Harvard-Yale junior varsity game and throwing passes in remote Chile with people who had never seen a football.
``It is a little strange how I got here,'' Hatch said.
Hatch will be ready Monday night when LSU takes on Ohio State. He got into one early game and was slowed the rest of the season by shoulder trouble.
Hatch originally was set to attend BYU after catching the eye of then-Cougars coach Gary Crowton in a camp. When Crowton left for Oregon, Hatch changed his plan and decided to go to the Ivy League.
So Hatch enrolled at Harvard in 2005 and wound up playing JV ball.
``You're a freshman, you show up in August, they don't know who you are. That was OK,'' he said.
One of his best games came at the Yale Bowl, where he ran and threw for a touchdown. After that school year, he did what many in his family had done for generations: He went on a Mormon mission.
``It was a beautiful country and I experienced things I had never done before. I am so glad I did it,'' he said.
Hatch brought along a football, and threw it when he could. His first wide receiver was a fellow missionary from Peru who had never caught a spiral.
While playing soccer, Hatch tore his right knee and needed surgery. That put an end in 2006 to his planned two-year mission and, while he was home in Nevada, he wound up talking to Crowton.
Crowton had become the offensive coordinator at LSU and said there might be a chance to make the team. Hatch walked on and wound up with a scholarship.
``I'd never been to Louisiana,'' he said. ``It wasn't on my radar.''
Hatch's debut came in the second quarter of LSU's second game, against Middle Tennessee. With his parents and brother watching at Tiger Stadium, he completed one of two passes and ran four times for 27 yards.
By then, Hatch had earned a nickname from his teammates - ``I'm the Harvard guy,'' he said.
``There was one guy who told me I didn't look like I went to Harvard and I didn't know how to take that,'' he said. ``I wasn't sure if he meant I didn't look like a bookworm.''
At 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds with a short haircut, Hatch fits right in.
``When I first heard about him coming, I didn't know what to think,'' LSU receiver Brandon LaFell said. ``I'd never heard of anyone coming from Harvard to LSU. I figured he must be pretty smart.''
Hatch said he had a 3.0 grade-point average in his one year at Harvard, and is making As and Bs at LSU. There's always room to improve, he added.
``I think my parents wish I would read more,'' he said.
WELL SAID: While LSU coach Les Miles and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel answered reporters' questions, stenographer Denise Phipps sat nearby listening intently and tapping away.
Working for the company ASAP Sports, she's transcribed comments from numerous coaches and athletes.
In her opinion, both Tressel and Miles are well-spoken and talk in logical patterns, making it easy for her to follow along, and more importantly, keep up.
``Compared to other people, they're both very slow. It makes it easier for me,'' she said. ``Some of the coaches we follow, you can't understand half of what they're saying because they're going so fast.''
With so much focus on strategy, perhaps good communication skills is one of those underrated qualities in successful coaches.
Sense of humor, however, might be optional.
When asked if either coached surprised her with their ability to crack jokes, Phipps pointed at Miles.
``He did,'' she started, ``but I haven't noticed it with the other coach.''
HURRICANE WOODY: The city of New Orleans is known for a lot of things, but its signature drink is a fruity yet powerful Southern Comfort-laced concoction known as the hurricane.
Larry Romanoff, an associate athletic director for Ohio State, was there the night that Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes was introduced to the hurricane.
Ohio State made its first bowl appearance in New Orleans in 1978 and the bowl people invited the Buckeyes out to Pat O'Brien's restaurant for some socializing. When the players and coaches came in the door, each was given a coupon the size of a business card that was good for one hurricane.
One by one the players went up and got their drinks while the dinner orders were placed and everybody talked about the day's events.
``Then Woody walked over to a guy - I think it was starting left tackle Tim Burke - and he said, 'Let me taste your punch,''' Romanoff said.
Hayes took a sip of the whiskey-laden beverage and blurted out, ``Oh my gosh!'' He didn't know that there was alcohol - and a lot of it - in a hurricane.
``He turned around and with that left hand of his, he fired it at the wrought-iron fence and the back wall of the courtyard and it smashed all over the place,'' Romanoff said. ``Then he yelled, 'Get out out NOW!' He basically chased everybody out to the front of the restaurant.''
Players were gulping down the drinks and dumping out the ice so they could keep the souvenir glasses that traditionally come with the drink.
``You should have seen the eyes on everybody when he winged that glass up against the wall,'' Romanoff said, laughing.
As a footnote, the teetotaling Buckeyes ended up losing big to Alabama in the bowl game, 35-6.
HE'S STAYING: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel sent in the paperwork for 13 of his third-year players to receive evaluations from NFL scouts on where those Buckeyes might go in next spring's draft.
Tressel has declined to say who the 13 players were, but it was widely believed that kicker Ryan Pretorius was one of them. Pretorius is not your typical junior.
He's 28 years old, to start with. The native of South Africa played professional rugby before making dozens of copies of a videotape of himself kicking field goals to try to entice American colleges to give him a scholarship.
He eventually walked on at Ohio State and did very little kicking until this season, in which he has converted 17-of-21 field goals and 45-of-46 point-after kicks for a team-best 96 points. He's only missed once in six chances from 40 yards or longer, and his longest kick this year was 50 yards.
Still, Pretorius said he was not one of the Buckeyes who asked for an NFL evaluation. He's not going anywhere.
``I didn't even think about it,'' he said. ``I want to come back next season. I want to be even better next year.''
YOU LOST, SON?:As LSU's lone Ohioan, offensive lineman Andrew Decker is used to taking some ribbing.
``When I came down here, they thought I had an accent,'' he said.
He's been hearing a lot more from his teammates as they prepare to face his homestate Buckeyes.
``Guys have said, 'They don't need any spies; they've got you,''' Decker said at Superdome media day on Saturday. ``I get that garbage every day.''
Decker, a junior, is unlikely to play against the Buckeyes after missing this season with a neck injury, and he has decided to give up football after the BCS title game. Decker is due to graduate in December with a finance degree.
But will he ever be allowed to go home again? Decker chuckled at the question.
``I'm planning on going home on the eighth,'' Decker said. ``I hope I don't get mauled when I get off the plane.''
EXTRA PEPPER: When Ohio State fullback Dionte Johnson has a problem relating to football, he doesn't have to go outside the house to get advice.
Johnson's dad is Thomas ``Pepper'' Johnson, an All-Big Ten linebacker with the Buckeyes who went on to play in two Pro Bowls and win two Super Bowls during a 13-year career in the NFL. He's now in his eighth season and has won three more Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the unbeaten New England Patriots.
The elder Johnson doesn't get to many of his son's games, but the two stay in regular contact. Pepper is always there to offer some positive words.
``He's not the type of guy who is going to go out of his way to get on you if you mess up,'' Dionte Johnson said. ``He'll give you an overall grade or how he thinks I performed, or if he things my head wasn't in the game. He's always done that. It was a little harder in high school when he wasn't able to make it to a lot of the game, just like college now. He still offers advice every step of the way.''
MR. CONSERVATIVE: LSU coach Les Miles said his reputation as a gambler is overblown.
``I am not a risk-taker,'' he said. ``I stop at lights. I get gas when I'm supposed to.''
But what about all those times he's gone for it on fourth down?
``I don't want to go on fourth down, ever,'' Miles said. ``I want to get it done on third.''
MICHIGAN, TAKE NOTE: Miles wore a pin on his black LSU sweatsuit at media day on Saturday. It said, ``Forever LSU.''