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When Andrew Hatch left Cambridge for Baton Rouge, La., it seemed that his path and that of the Harvard football team were intrinsically separate, and that neither would be the worse for it. The Crimson was set at quarterback with Chris Pizzotti ’08-’09, and Hatch was off to Tiger Stadium to compete for playing time at LSU, one of the top football programs in the country.
But Hatch and the Crimson were ultimately inseparable, and now neither can function on the gridiron without the other.
Harvard offers Hatch one last chance to lead an offense, and the Crimson’s season may rest in the hands of the field general who has travelled to the deep south and back looking for an army.
“He’s going to get the job done,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy says.
Back in the fall of 2005, before his story became nationally known, Hatch was a junior varsity quarterback who reminded his coaches of a certain Buffalo Bills signal caller.
“What’s better than athletic and fast?” Murphy asks. “Big, athletic, and fast. He’s more like Ryan Fitzpatrick [’05] in terms of his skill set.”
But that athleticism wasn’t enough to earn Hatch varsity playing time in his first year. With Harvard in good hands, Hatch decided to put his college football career on hold and serve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by going on a two-year mission.
“I decided after my first year that I was going to go serve a mission for my church, which is something a lot of the guys my age, around 19 or 20, usually do,” he explains. “People in my family had done it, and I thought it seemed like a good thing for me to carry on. So I left to do that—I ended up going to the southern part of Chile for a while.”
But Hatch’s mission in Chile was cut short by a torn meniscus sustained while playing soccer, and he was forced to fly back to the US for surgery.
But even with a wounded knee, Hatch held the attention of Gary Crowton. As the head coach of Brigham Young University, Crowton had tried to recruit Hatch out of high school to come play for the Cougars.
At his new post as LSU’s offensive coordinator, he was finally able to lure Hatch away from the Crimson with the offer of a football scholarship. The opportunity was too good to pass up. Hatch figured that Harvard had enough talent at quarterback that it wouldn’t miss him too much.
But not even the Tigers could take the Crimson out of Hatch.
After two seasons with LSU, during which he suffered a concussion and broke his fibula in his left leg, the Nevada native decided to head back north, remembering the love of the school that first led him to Cambridge.
“I was recruited by Harvard out of high school,” Hatch recalls. “I pretty much knew it was the top academic environment you could find...I liked Harvard all along; it felt like the right place after I visited.”
“Deep down, I think I always knew I wanted to finish at Harvard,” he adds.
But before he had a chance to compete for the Crimson starting job, Hatch had to sit out a year, as per NCAA rules.
“Not having a chance to play and compete for a spot is tough, but I tried to keep it positive,” Hatch says. “It’s a really good group of guys, and I really enjoy being a part of that. And more than that, I ran the scout offense [last] fall, which is basically what younger guys do when they come into the program and might not be starting right away. I really felt like that was my opportunity to compete against our defense. It definitely made me better.”
Even entering the 2010 season, it was unclear that Hatch would ever have an offense to call his own, as incumbent senior Collier Winters—an All-Ivy pick in 2009—was favored to keep his spot.
Throughout preseason, Hatch and Winters stayed nose to nose in competition before an injury to Winters took the decision out of Murphy’s hands.
Finally under center for the Crimson, Hatch seems a perfect fit for the Harvard offense.
“Hatch has a really strong arm,” senior receiver Marco Iannuzzi says. “He can scramble one way and throw it right across the field. It’s rare to see a guy throw it across his body.”
Hatch’s deep ball will clear up room near the line of scrimmage for the Crimson’s running back trio of senior Gino Gordon and sophomores Treavor Scales and Rich Zajeski.
“[Hatch] will give us the opportunity to run the kind of offense we want to run,” Murphy says.
Athleticism, of course, can only take a quarterback and his team so far. The best quarterbacks are also known for their intelligence, work ethic, and maturity.
Luckily for Harvard, Murphy and Iannuzzi say Hatch possesses all three.
“He’s a very bright kid, and that carries over to football—and that’s not a given,” Murphy says. “He’s a very hard worker in terms of ‘Coach, what do I need to do to improve? Can I come look at more film? Can we find extra meeting time?’”
“He’s definitely a very mature player,” Iannuzzi adds. “He’s very focused. You don’t see him doing anything wrong off the field. He’s a 100-percent focused guy, a really good person. That carries on the field to him being a real leader. If players want to ground themselves, they can go talk to Hatch.”
As another player who has taken a long route to the Crimson, Iannuzzi knows the benefits of a long road to Cambridge.
“It makes him and makes myself realize how special this time is,” he says.
“I’m really excited to be out there and just play,” Hatch concurs.
Five years and two continents later, the quarterback has finally found his field: the one he wanted all along.
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.
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