The following article appeared in the Sept. 18 edition of the Boston Globe and was written by national football correspondent Marc Blaudschun.
It has been six years and Andrew Hatch is still looking for a starring role. Not that he didn’t have opportunities, dating to 2005 when he was a hot-shot quarterback out of Henderson, Nev., who committed to his Mormon faith when he enrolled at BYU.
But then the coach he wanted to play for was fired, and Hatch’s journey began, taking him to Harvard, to Chile for a Mormon mission, to life in the fast lane of the Southeastern Conference at LSU, and finally back to Harvard, where Hatch will start in tonight’s home opener against Holy Cross.
“He is a 24-year-old senior, kind of an interesting story,’’ understated Harvard coach Tim Murphy, who made a QB switch this week after incumbent starter Collier Winters suffered a torn labrum in a scrimmage.
Starting for LSU on a Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., and starting for Harvard two years later on a Saturday night in Harvard Stadium? How many people can claim that daily double?
Hatch spent last year on the Crimson’s scout team after transferring from LSU. Normally, the NCAA is lenient on players who switch from a Bowl Subdivision program to one in the Championship Subdivision. But since it was his second transfer, Hatch was held to the NCAA’s one-year eligibility hiatus.
Hatch spent his freshman season on Harvard’s junior varsity team, then left for a two-year Mormon mission in Chile. A knee injury ended his mission in the first year, and Hatch returned home for rehabilitation. Healthy for the 2007 season, Hatch enrolled at LSU, where Gary Crowton, the coach who recruited him at BYU, was running the offense.
After playing a minimal role in the Tigers’ national championship season, Hatch was elevated to starter in 2008. But he suffered a concussion in the third game, and three weeks later his season was ended by a broken leg.
His football career was again on pause until he contacted Murphy again.
Harvard and Hatch petitioned the NCAA for immediate clearance to play, but after pondering the decision for four months, it was ruled Hatch would have to sit for a year.
“I was excited when I came back because I thought I could play for two more years,’’ said Hatch. “The NCAA didn’t see it that way. Harvard said I was taking a leave of absence [when he left after 2005]. The NCAA said that I had transferred.’’
So once again, Hatch filled an understudy role, as the scout team QB.
“I think he really proved himself to the team last year,’’ said Murphy. “He gave our defense a great look every single week.’’
When Winters suffered his injury (likely season-ending), Murphy had no qualms about his new starting QB.
“Andrew Hatch is a very good quarterback and probably has as much ability as anyone we’ve had in our program, but we’ve had less time developing him because of his situation,’’ said Murphy. “We can be a good offensive team with Hatch in there. The thing you never know is, you’ve got to play the game to find out what those intangibles are really like, but we like where he is at.’’
So does Hatch, who shows the enthusiasm of a freshman when he talks about his new status.
“I’ve kind of come full circle,’’ he said after the Crimson finished practice Thursday night. “I never could have imagined how it all unfolded. And I couldn’t have foreseen all the things that happened.’’
As a football player, this is Hatch’s last season of eligibility. Academically, he still has a ways to go because Harvard did not accept the credits Hatch earned at LSU. “I’m listed as a second semester junior,’’ he said.
Hatch appreciates all of his experiences over the last five years. But his goal has always been clear: to play football.
“The process [last year] was frustrating, but it was also fun,’’ he said. “I was working with the scout team, going against the first team. I wanted to show everyone I was serious about coming back.’’
Facing Holy Cross, last year’s Patriot League champion, presents another benchmark. Holy Cross has won two of the last three meetings, including a 27-20 victory last year in Worcester.
“They are definitely one of the better teams on our schedule,’’ said Murphy.
Hatch is aware of the challenge, especially playing under the lights in the home opener.
When someone told Hatch he’d likely be the first to complete the Tiger Stadium-Harvard Stadium Saturday night combination, he laughed.
“It will be fun,’’ he said. “I can’t wait.’’