Hatcher for 8.9.07Eagle head coach Chris Hatcher discusses day three of Georgia Southern football practice.
Lynon Jefferson is just glad to be back on the football field.
And so is J.T. Nash.
Both missed the 2006 campaign but are thrilled to return to toiling in the heat at Beautiful Eagle Creek in preparation for the upcoming season.
Jefferson, a senior wide receiver, started all 12 games at slotback as a sophomore in 2005 before a problematic shoulder suffered a disastrous blow during fall camp last year. A torn rotator cuff and dislocated shoulder forced him to miss all of his junior year and undergo a third surgery in December. It also caused a frightening notion to cross his mind — what if his career was over?
“I sat down and talked with my family, went to church and talked with the pastor,” Jefferson said. “He said just to keep on going. I feel like I can do it. I went to a couple doctors and just kept pushing forward.”
The Effingham County native was cleared to play about a month ago and continues to rehab.
“I’m still trying to get my shoulder strong,” he said. “It feels good, but the shoulder brace is kind of tight. I’m working with it.”
After playing exclusively as a running back, Jefferson is currently adjusting to his new position at wide receiver where first-year Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher thought he’d be a better fit.
“It’s a lot of running, a lot, like a track star,” Jefferson said. “You’ve got to get in the cold tub after every practice, drink a lot of fluids and learn plays.
“It feels great to be out here running around with the guys again. It’s like I’m a freshman again. It’s just amazing. I worked hard during the summer, and I’m getting there. It’s starting to click faster and faster.”
He’s glad for the opportunity to play for Hatcher, who heavily recruited him to Valdosta State.
“He’s a great coach and knows what he’s doing,” Jefferson said. “He’s not as hard core as far as yelling at you and getting in your butt, but he knows what he’s talking about, and you want to listen to him.”
Hatcher also thinks highly of Jefferson and hopes he’ll be a contributor this fall.
“He’s a great talent, and the thing right now is he’s just rusty,” Hatcher said. “He’s got a lot of work to do just by being out for quite some time. He’s a great guy, willing to learn, a hard worker and the kind of guy you want on your football team.”
Regarding his goals, Jefferson said he’s hoping for the Eagles’ first national championship since 2000. “That’s the reason I came here since day one, and we haven’t done that yet,” he said.
“Also, we are just trying to push each other and be better as a team.”
As for Nash, the senior cornerback said he couldn’t stay away from the game he loved. He decided not to play last season because of personal issues with the previous coaching staff but had a change of heart when Hatcher took over in January.
“I came and watched a few practices, really liked what I saw and wanted to be a part,” Nash said.
Hatcher said he was really glad Nash decided to return.
“He rejoined in the spring, and we held him out (of spring practice because) he hadn’t earned the right to be on the team yet,” Hatcher said. “We let him practice a little bit at the end, and then he had a great offseason. Right now we expect him to come out there and really shore up our defensive backfield.”
Nash was grateful Hatcher welcomed him back with open arms.
“He’s a great guy, and so are all the coaches on this staff,” the Griffin native said. “They have a kind heart. They welcomed me back, and I really appreciate getting a second chance.”
Nash said battling this week’s heat has been brutal but will help the team get back into football shape. He’s optimistic about the defensive backfield.
“Once the season starts, I feel like we’ve got enough people in the secondary to contribute,” Nash said.
Once again, Hatcher was pleased with his team Wednesday, the Eagles’ third practice of fall camp and first in shells (helmets and shoulder pads). He said the afternoon group of mostly veterans is light years ahead of the younger morning group, which is still learning.
“We had great intensity and again are right where we need to be,” Hatcher said. “We are learning each and every day. Some of the battles at positions are starting to unfold a little bit. Hopefully, everyday we’ll get a little bit better because that’s our goal.”
Senior Jayson Foster continued to work exclusively with the quarterbacks. The entire team will practice together for the first time this morning, and the first day in full pads is scheduled for Friday.
Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.