Diesel's Hatcher making the most of opportunity

Hub photo by Rick Tucker
Tri-City Diesel running back Andre Hatcher, center, breaks loose for a big gain in a 26-19 win over the Omaha Beef. Hatcher scored five touchdowns in the Diesel's 51-39 win versus the La Crosse Night Train last weekend.

06/22/02 Kearney Cyberhub

KEARNEY — Tri-City Diesel running back Andre Hatcher graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in psychology.

But the Cleveland, Ohio, native insists that the Diesel's three-game winning streak doesn't have anything to do with the team's id, ego or super ego.

He says improved chemistry is the Diesel's secret to success.

"We are more confident in not only ourselves, but in the players around us as well," Hatcher said. "It's like that in any sport. … You can have a team full of superstars and not win a thing. You have to have that trust."

Hatcher gave Tri-City coach Leland Skeen five reasons to believe by scoring five touchdowns in the Diesel's 51-39 win over La Crosse last Saturday.

Hatcher finished with 51 yards rushing in the win, and he also snagged four passes for 120 yards.

"I had a lot more touches in that game," Hatcher said. "Any athlete will tell you that's the key to getting into the flow. The more touches I get, the more in touch I get with the game."

Hatcher has been asked to carry more of the rushing load since starting running back Dale Van Housen broke his collarbone in a Week 9 loss to Rapid City.

He said he has embraced the opportunity and is glad to be back at his natural position.

"I started out at the H position, but Coach Skeen could see that really wasn't that comfortable with it," he said. "The H position is primarily a receiver in our offense, and that's not my natural position. I played some receiver in high school, but playing it 90 percent of the time is a big difference."

But Hatcher certainly looked comfortable hauling in a 23-yard scoring strike from quarterback Justin Coleman in the La Crosse game.

"I can catch the ball and run decent routes," Hatcher said laughing. "But the real trick to it is reading defenses and knowing when sit down in a zone."

Hatcher knows those are the kinds of "tricks" he'll have to develop if hew wants to achieve his goal of playing in the NFL.

"There are natural steps you have to go through," he said. "You don't just jump from the NIFL to the NFL."

He started his football career at Ohio State in 1994, but transferred to Duquesne in 1996 to get more playing time. After graduating in 1999 he felt he had pro potential, but didn't have an agent to help him get invited to an NFL combine.

Hatcher then took two years off from football before joining the NIFL's Ohio Valley Greyhounds at the beginning of this season. He played just two games with the Greyhounds before being released in March.

Soon after, Hatcher's agent got in touch with Skeen and he quickly earned a spot in the Diesel's backfield.

Hatcher said he would be interested in playing another year with the Diesel if other opportunities don't present themselves during the off season.

"Kearney has been lovely," he said. "The people here are tremendous. They seem like they are kind-hearted and outspoken. That's something that is kind of new to me. People don't stop and say hi when you are walking down the street where I'm from."

Hatcher said he might return to Cleveland this summer in search of a job in social work. If so, he says he'll miss the rural atmosphere of Kearney.

"I'm not a real live wire so it's fine for me," he said. "I'm a relaxed type of person. I just like to lay low and take care of my business."

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