Senior Center Relishing His Role as a Team Leader

Sept. 30, 2011

Many fans watching a football game can spot the impact that the quarterback, running back or wide receiver has on the field.

The position of center, however, may go unnoticed but plays just as important of a role. Fortunately, the University of Kansas has a highly experienced man over the ball. Senior Jeremiah Hatch has been a leader on the offensive line for the past three seasons in which he’s blossomed into one of the conference’s best at his position.

As a senior captain this season, Hatch knows the important role he plays on this year’s team.

“It takes a lot of leadership (to play center),” Hatch said. “You have to get in that film room a lot. You have to get the guys on the offensive line moving when they don’t want to come. There’s a lot of talking at the line, too. You’re calling out the defenses and doing a lot of extra talking.”

Head football strength coach John Williams echoed the importance of solid leadership at the center position. He also praised Hatch for being just that.

“He’s a good leader,” Williams said. “He always has a positive attitude and a positive perspective. He looks for the silver lining in everything he does. We know if Hatch is down, then it’s probably a really bad situation because he’s rarely down in a group setting.”

Coming to KU as a highly-ranked center out of Carter High School in Dallas, Texas, Hatch found many people questioning his decision to go out-of-state to play football. He—and all Jayhawk fans—have his grandmother to thank for his choice. His love for the Crimson and Blue began at an early age because of one specific piece of bedroom décor.

“It’s a funny story,” Hatch said. “I had a lot of offers. A lot of people don’t know why I picked KU and turned down so many other offers, but it was actually because of my grandma. My grandma bought me KU curtains for my room when I was little and it just got stuck in my mind from there that I wanted to go to KU.”

Just how influential have those curtains been for him?

“I’ve kept those curtains, actually,” Hatch confessed. “They’re still in my room right now back at home. Those curtains played a big part (in my decision). It sounds silly, but that’s actually what happened.”

As important as those curtains have been for Hatch and the Jayhawks, his family—specifically his mother—has been his motivation.

“My mom is my No. 1 fan. She’s always been there to say, ‘hey, don’t give up’ or ‘don’t quit because you can’t come back here.’ That was one of the things she has always told me.”

Hatch also credits Coach Williams for helping him through some of the rougher times during his college career.

“Coach Williams has been here when I needed someone to talk to,” Hatch said. “When things were going rough here, he’s played an important role for me.”

Hatch also has all of his teammates to lean on. He has definitely seen an improvement in attitude during the second season under head coach Turner Gill. The senior center is relishing the time he gets to spend with his football family.

“We’ve got a lot more camaraderie (this year),” Hatch said. “Our team is working well together on and off the field now. It’s a lot more fun because we all have a winning mentality, and that’s made all the difference in the world.”

Williams has noticed the companionship as well and credits Hatch for some of the positivity surrounding the program.

“He has really good relationships with his teammates,” Williams said. “He brings a good work ethic and has brought a lot of confidence to the group. He’s got a really positive outlook for the season.”

Around the football complex, Hatch has become known not only for his leadership skills but for his fun-loving personality.

Despite standing 6-3 and weighing close to 300 pounds, some would go as far as calling him a “teddy bear” off the field. When asked about the accuracy of that description, Hatch could only agree.

“That’s probably right,” Hatch said. “I listen to Al Green and really old school music. I love laughing and playing around, but when it’s time to get on the field, that’s the time that I take it seriously. That’s when I take it personally and leave it all on the field.”

With the help of Williams, Hatch spent the offseason training hard and losing weight in order to become a more agile center. He found a new focus and a new fire knowing that this was his final season in a Jayhawk uniform.

“This year my focus has been consistency,” Hatch said. “This is my last go-around, so I’m going to do everything I can do to be successful for this team.”

Williams was impressed with the work ethic shown by Hatch and the confidence that has come with the product of all Hatch’s hard work.

“His conditioning level has improved a lot,” Williams said. “His self-esteem is way up because he’s feeling good about himself. He completed his first full off-season in his entire football career, including high school. He’s smaller, faster and stronger. It’s really had an impact on his season and has carried on to give him an opportunity to play at the next level.”

That next level, the NFL, is an obvious objective for the KU senior, but Hatch is not ready to leapfrog over his goals for this season.

“I want to win a Big 12 Championship and I want to actually win a bowl game,” Hatch concluded. “Before all of that, I just really want to keep enjoying my college football experience. After, if I’m blessed, I want to try for the next level.”

Emma Cornish is a senior from Wichita, Kan. She is majoring in journalism.