Andrew Hatch, who was a scholarship quarterback at Louisiana State University and played on a national championship team, proved he was smart enough to go to Harvard University.
Now he has to show he is good enough to start for the Crimson football team, which doesn’t compete at the sport’s top level or even play postseason games.
Hatch, who was a freshman at Harvard in 2005, left to go on a Mormon mission the following year. He then accepted a scholarship to play for LSU and decided to come back to Harvard after breaking his leg in a game against the University of Georgia.
When the Crimson start their summer practice at the school’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, today, Hatch will be competing for the starting job with Collier Winters, who led the team to a second-place finish in the Ivy League last year.
“When he called me to say he’d like to come back, I said, ’Fine, you can come back, but it better be based on you getting your degree from Harvard, because you’ll be starting from scratch with Harvard football,” coach Tim Murphy said in an interview.
Hatch, who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, said that was fine with him.
“I had a great experience at LSU, but after breaking my leg and missing all of spring practice, it was going to be very difficult to compete the following year,” Hatch said in an interview. “I knew Harvard had a great football program and a unique educational opportunity. So I thought, ‘Go back and finish what you started.’”
Winters, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior economics major from Claremore, Oklahoma, with a 3.43 grade point average, said the job is his to lose.
“Coach Murphy says I am the starter, and my mindset is to come into camp and lead this team,” Winters, who turns 22 next week, said in a telephone interview. “Andrew is a great quarterback. It has pushed me to work harder. I think the competition will push both of us to work harder.”
Hatch, 24, was recruited by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Harvard. He was leaning toward BYU when coach Gary Crowton was fired in December 2004.
Harvard’s Murphy jumped at the chance to sign Hatch, even though it meant agreeing to let him leave for a two-year Mormon mission following his freshman year. Murphy was rewarded when Hatch showed promise on the Crimson’s junior varsity squad his freshman season.
Mission to Chile
In the summer of 2006, Hatch left for Los Angeles, Chile, a city of about 160,000 people in the southern part of the country. He returned home to Henderson, Nevada, the following February for surgery after he injured his knee playing a pickup game of soccer.
During Hatch’s rehabilitation, former BYU coach Crowton, then the offensive coordinator at LSU, told Hatch there was a spot on the Tigers’ roster for a quarterback.
Hatch called Murphy to say he wouldn’t be returning to Harvard. He completed one pass for LSU before a shoulder injury sent him to the sidelines. The Tigers beat Ohio State 38-24 in the January 2008 national title game.
The following season, Hatch and Jarrett Lee alternated at quarterback, with neither able to claim the top job for the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, school. Then, in the seventh game against Georgia, Hatch cracked his left fibula in several spots during a 52-38 loss.
The defeat, LSU’s second of the year, ended any chance of repeating as national champions, and got Hatch thinking about finishing his degree at Harvard.
“I don’t think I got a chance to reach my full potential (at LSU),” said Hatch, a psychology major with a 3.3 grade point average who is three semesters short of graduation. “All I’m concerned about now is competing and staying positive and helping Harvard win an Ivy League title.”
Harvard wouldn’t accept any of Hatch’s LSU credits, so he returned as a sophomore in the fall of 2009 and had to sit out the season because of a National Collegiate Athletic Association regulation about transferring twice.
Murphy said he could tell that playing for LSU, which is in college football’s elite division, made Hatch a better player, although he still had some soft spots in his game.
“He needs to work on taking care of the football better, and he’s got to do a better job in his decision making,” Murphy said. “Part of that is becoming more comfortable with our offense, which is a little more complex than the offense he ran at LSU.”
Prepared to Compete
Murphy says Hatch has worked hard and has shown he’s prepared to compete for the starting job against Winters, who completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 1,861 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Crimson last season.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to have to earn people’s respect and trust.’ And I think that is a work in progress,” Murphy said. “He’s done a good job. But let’s face it. He still has a lot to prove to his teammates that he is really committed to us.”