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The Hatch Effect
Why a 3-8 team from 2006 and its first-year coach are ready to turn it all around
Hatcher 4 col COL
Hatcher signals to his quarterback during the first week of fall practice. GATA is one of the many ‘Erk-isms’ Hatcher is bringing back.

Williams for 8.12.07

Senior offensive lineman Brad Williams gives his thoughts on Coach Hatcher.

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    After 13 turbulent months, Chris Hatcher isn’t concerning himself with how the Eagles got into their current predicament.
    Instead, he’s focusing on getting Georgia Southern — the most successful program in Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) history — back to its winning ways.
    “I didn’t study history in college,” said the first-year GSU coach. “I’m not a history major, so I don’t worry about what happened in the past, I worry about what we are going to do the next day.”
    Hatcher, who halted a revolving door of Georgia Southern coaches with his January hire, is working to bring stability back to the Eagles, picked preseason to finish fourth in the Southern Conference.
    He made his first statement by shaking hands with everyone in Snooky’s Restaurant hours before his hiring press conference and later drew rousing ovations at his formal introduction by promising the return of storied yellow school buses.
    His players are having fun again and the community is glad he’s here.
    In less than seven months, Hatcher has injected life and optimism into a program staggering from three head coaches in 13 months and last year’s school-worst, three-win season. The about-face prevalent among players and boosters — The Hatch Effect — is the result of his tireless efforts to bring success back to Statesboro.
    So just what is it about this Macon native and former Valdosta State quarterback and head coach that’s got everyone at Beautiful Eagle Creek smiling nearly four weeks before the season kicks off?
    “It’s the way he presents himself,” said senior standout Jayson Foster. “Every time he talks, it’s always positive, always upbeat. His plan is a good plan. Anytime the football season is about to start, I think everyone is going to be upbeat, especially with a new coach coming in with all the wins he has. I think everyone is excited.”
    Players say they feed off Hatcher’s enthusiasm and feel like they’re kids playing football in the backyard again.
    “Anybody that knows Coach Hatcher knows he’s energetic, and he’s always upbeat,” said senior offensive lineman Brad Williams. “Whatever is going on, he always looks at the positive, and that’s a good thing to have in a head coach.”
    The program’s supporters, also feeling the impact of The Hatch Effect, appreciate Hatcher’s accessibility, straightforwardness and sincerity.
    “He’s made a significant effort to reach out to the community,” said Southern Booster Vince Galasso. “He makes the fans feel like we are a part of what’s going on.
    “He’s really put the kids at ease. Sure, he’ll be tough on them when he has to be, but the kids are definitely enjoying themselves. They don’t seem so tight. He’s always doing a lot of teaching and is very hands on. He’s put the fun back in football for them, and for those reasons, I truly believe he has a chance to succeed. You can tell the kids want to play for him.”
    They certainly do. Junior defensive back Chris Covington said Hatcher consciously tries to make the game more enjoyable and finds small ways to challenge the players in every drill.
    “He makes it not so much work or a drill, but a mini game where you’re competing with the guy across from you every play,” Covington said. “It’s a lot easier to work that way.”
    For Hatcher, staying positive and not dwelling on the past is key.
    “Thoughts become things,” he said. “If you have a lot of negativity around your program, it turns into a negative. So if you’re always positive, you become more of a positive football team.”
    Either before or after practice Hatcher usually tells his team good stories, ones that can relate to what’s going on the players’ lives. Exactly what are those tales about?
    “I can’t tell you that — it’s top secret,” Williams said with a laugh.
    Hatcher’s popularity is also tied to the fact that he embraces the school’s traditions such as riding the rickety yellow buses to Paulson Stadium on game days, wearing gray facemasks and saluting Beautiful Eagle Creek.
    “He respects the history of the program, and that’s why these kids came here — because of Georgia Southern’s tradition,” booster Tommy Callaway said.
    The team, junior quarterback Travis Clark said, has sensed the excitement in the community and been encouraged by it.
    “Coach has come in here and just changed everything,” Clark said. “He comes out here and tells you the best things that are going to happen to the team, and that’s what a player wants to hear. It’s always good to know that we have a chance to go out here and play college football on Saturdays.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.