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Hatcher rouses Kiwanis Club

Don't be surprised one day if you drive past campus and see Georgia Southern University head football Coach Chris Hatcher bathing in Beautiful Eagle Creek.
    "The Hatch Man," as he calls himself, knows the magic of the glorified drainage ditch is real. He's seen proof, but the word of legendary coach Erk Russell was enough.
    Hatcher gave a lively and rousing speech Thursday to the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, letting it be known that those traditions created by Russell and revered by all Eagle fans will be revived and respected during his tenure at GSU. He said he hopes that tenure will be lengthy.
    Hatcher talked about the night he arrived in Statesboro before a press conference announcing his acceptance of the university's head coach position. "When I came here ... it was the third time I had ever been to Statesboro," he said.
    The day rumors began buzzing about former GSU coach Brian van Gorder leaving the university, Hatcher began getting phone calls. Shortly after the first call informing him of Van Gorder's leaving, he received a call from GSU Athletic Director Sam Baker asking if he could come talk to Hatcher.
    But when Baker interviewed Hatcher, there was no job offer. Hatcher had expected the offer and became "disgruntled" when it never came, he told the club.
    But two hours later when Baker was on his way back home to Statesboro, he called Hatcher and said "'We're going to offer you the job,'" he said.
    "I said 'I tell you what - let me get back to you,'" he said.
    But Hatcher really wanted the position, he said, and is very happy to be in Statesboro. "I'm looking forward to being at GSU for a long, long time."
    He knows there are high expectations and the shoes of Erk Russell will be hard, if not impossible, to fill. But it is the respect for Russell and his infinite wisdom and exemplary performance that will help make the team great again, he said.
    "GSU football fans are spoiled," he told Kiwanis members, meaning the fans expect wins. "There are a few schools who have won as many national championships (as GSU) but no one has won them like you guys have."
    He told about being greeted by Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson and GSU Police Chief Ken Brown when he first arrived at Paulson Stadium.
    "They said 'Coach, we're your biggest fans, and we want you to know we're going to be with you - win or tie.'"
    But then Anderson reminded him there are no ties in college football, he said.
    Hatcher spoke about how impressed he was with the way the community "sold the school" to recruits. "I know I'm in a great place," he said. "Our job now is to get GSU back on top. We have high expectations for ourselves; however, there are a lot of challenges."
    He said the special touches and unique customs Russell inspired will be revived at GSU. "We're going to embrace the traditions of GSU" with yellow school buses transporting the players and the waters of Beautiful Eagle Creek being sprinkled over the end zones during playoff games.
    Things "will be how Coach Russell did when it (the football program) just got started," he said. "If you believe in these strong enough they do have magic."
    He told about former player Tim Durden who had an injured ankle. Russell told him "the only thing that will help that ankle is Eagle Creek water,'" he said.
    Of course, Durden soaked his ankle in the "creek" and the injury miraculously healed, Hatcher said.
    As a matter of fact. Hatcher tried the Eagle Creek theory himself. During a practice recently, he told a player to rub his hands with Eagle Creek water. It worked - the player began catching balls right and left, he said.
    "The next day I saw (players) down at the creek," he said. "If you believe in those things they tend to make a difference."
    Hatcher shared the team's three goals, adding " Winning takes care of itself if you meet these goals."
    First, "Play hard," he said. Second, "Make sure it's fun - and winning is fun."  Last, he said "Attitude - we're going to expect to win."   

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