Football: Hatchett enters NFL Draft
It’s been a long road for Douglas High graduate Gabe Hatchett, but the journey isn’t quite over yet.
During the weekend of April 28 and 29, it’s a fair bet he’ll be sitting by his phone during the course of the NFL Draft.
Hatchett, who spent the last two years playing football at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, has entered into this year’s draft process.
Due in large part to the work he’s put in over the last several months, he’s vaulted himself from free agent hopeful to potential late-round sleeper pick.
“Heading into my senior year, one of the scouts from the San Diego Chargers came out and timed me in the 40-yard dash and took my height and measurements,” Hatchett said. “I played real well in my junior year and he came around to grade all the incoming seniors and he gave me a pretty good grade.”
Hatchett, a wide receiver, had 43 catches for 635 yards and seven touchdowns in his junior year.
He entered his senior year as one of the top three pro prospects in the NAIA, but was hampered by injuries and had 25 catches for 340 yards and three touchdowns.
Even so, he still led the Raiders in all-purpose yardage with a total of 534 including kick and punt returns.
And the scouts who took a look at him saw enough of what they liked to keep him in the mix.
“Enough scouts said enough good things about me for agents to start contacting me,” Hatchett said.
Coming out of the season, he weighed 205 pounds and was running a 4.64 40, which was comparable to the lower end of the receivers who attended this year’s NFL combine in Indianapolis.
The NFL experts at Scout.com gave him a 1.90 grade (with a 0.0 being a Round 1 player and a 2.0 being a marginal free agent qualifier), meaning that they saw him as a secondary level free agent.
They also rated him as a type F player, which translated out of scouting lingo would mean an overachiever who has the necessary size for the position and is a strong competitor.
Hatchett caught on with agent Kevin Van Ry, of the Reno firm Fox, Grogan & Van Ry which also represents Carolina’s Steve Smith and former Nevada star and current Jacksonville Jaguar’s linebacker Jorge Cordova.
“I signed with him after the football season,” Hatchett said. “I went up to their office and they had a nice presentation and I just felt very comfortable there.”
He also started participating in rigorous individual workouts with former Boise State standout Cheyenne Pietri, the sports performance director at VelocitySports Performance in Reno.
“I’ve just been working out hard and hitting the weights,” Hatchett said. “Cheyenne has been teaching me little things about running the 40 and the three-cone drill.”
The work paid off as Hatchett ran a 4.58 40 at the University of Nevada pro day earlier this month, and measured in at 6 feet, 1.25 inches and 217 pounds, more than 10 pounds heavier than he was during the season.
With scouts from the Panthers, Rams and Dolphins in attendance, he made his marking while running routes with Nevada quarterback Jeff Rowe during the workout.
“I’d been working with Jeff for a couple weeks, just running routes with him,” Hatchett said. “My speed was OK, but I knew to make an impression I’d have to run good routes. When it came down to running a post or a fade and making a nice catch, I think I showed a lot more of what I can do.”
In the weeks since, the Dolphins, the Rams and the Colts have stepped up with steady interest.
“I’m just trying to get myself out there as much as I can,” Hatchett said. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll return kicks, or run down as a gunner on punts. Coming from a small school I’m just trying to get into a camp and proving my worth on the field.”
Hatchett said he’s being realistic about the whole process and said at the best, he’d be getting a call during the seventh round of the draft or later.
He’ll get one more shot to show his skills on the field during the NAIA Football Classic All-Star Game presented by Victory Sports Network in Platt City, Mo. on April 21.
“If it comes down to it, I’ll listen to offers from NFL Europe or Arena Football,” he said. “I just want to keep playing.”
It was a rough road even getting through college for Hatchett.
After setting career and season marks in receptions and yardage at Douglas in 1999 and 2000, he had two solid seasons at Sacramento City College in 2002 and 2003.
From there he verbally committed to Nebraska in the winter of 2004, but didn’t receive admission into the school so he opted for Toledo instead.
Once there, he found out he was academically inelegible because of a math classhe hadn’t taken yet.
He completed that course while sitting out the season. By the time he was eligible, he was buried toward the bottom of the depth chart with a new class of recruits coming in, so he transferred to Division I-AA Sacramento State in order not to sit out another year.
He struggled to balance a heavy load of spring classes he’d signed up for with spring football practices and not being able to make his grades.
“At that point, NFL Europe and Arena Football agents were contacting me and it looked pretty attractive to just leave school completely,” Hatchett said. “But everyone kept telling me to stay in school and ride this out, so I went up to Southern Oregon and finished up two years there.
“There’ve been a lot of setbacks along the way and a lot of hard work. There were a lot of times when I wanted to quit, but I knew I just had to get it done.
“At the pro day, the scout from the Colts asked how many schools I’d been to. If they look at it the wrong way, it doesn’t look so good.
“It’s something I definitely wish I could have done better, but I kept with it and kept working and now I’m a semester away from a college degree with a shot to play professional football.”
Hatchett’s family moved to Carson Valley when he was in middle school and he played several years in Pop Warner before playing at the high school.
His father, Alonzo Hatchett, has coached in Pop Warner for many years, and the two will be conducting a clinic this summer at Stodick Park presented by Velocity Sports Performance.
The clinic, which will run from July 12 to 15, will be open to players 5 to 17 years old and will cover speed and agility training as well as position specifics.
Hatchett said his agent will attempt to bring several of his other clients, including Cordova, down for the camp.
For more information on the camp, Hatchett can be reached at email@example.com.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.