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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Less is more: Kansas football OL Jeremiah Hatch shows off trim(mer) frame

Jeremiah Hatch (77) and Randall Dent (64) talk Monday, April 18, 2011, during spring football practice at the practice fields next to Memorial Stadium. Hatch has lost between 35 and 40 pounds in the offseason.

Jeremiah Hatch (77) and Randall Dent (64) talk Monday, April 18, 2011, during spring football practice at the practice fields next to Memorial Stadium. Hatch has lost between 35 and 40 pounds in the offseason.

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Jeremiah Hatch lost 35-40 pounds in offseason

KU offensive lineman Jeremiah Hatch explains how he lost 35-40 pounds in the offseason at Big 12 Media Days on July 26, 2011, in Dallas.

— A few weeks ago, Kansas University senior Tim Biere was taken aback by a string of words that came out of the mouth of fellow senior Jeremiah Hatch.

“It was in the weight room. I was standing by the scale, and Hatch came over and said, ‘I’m the biggest loser, I’m the biggest loser,’” Biere remembered. “I was just like, ‘What?’”

Contrary to how it might have sounded, Hatch actually was celebrating. For the first time in what surely seemed like years, the offensive lineman from Dallas stepped onto the scale and saw his weight register a number that began with a 2. Like the contestants on the popular television show “The Biggest Loser,” Hatch, who said he watches the show, took great pride in seeing that.

“We play around a lot,” he said. “So they were just like, ‘Hey, Hatch, you’re the biggest loser.’ But that moment was real.”

And it led Hatch to Dallas, where he spent Tuesday as one of three players representing KU at Day Two of the Big 12 media days.

Six months ago, Hatch’s presence here was a long shot at best. He was injured, out of shape and, quite frankly, not ready to face the kind of media barrage that comes with the showcase event.

Pound by pound, that all changed. But don’t take Hatch’s word for it. Or Biere’s. Look to the words of the one person in this world who knows Hatch best: his mother, Shannon McNeal.

McNeal first learned her son was coming to Dallas this week when she received a Google Alert about Hatch’s spot alongside seniors Biere and Steven Johnson as the faces of the 2011 Jayhawks.

She has talked to him a lot in the past six months, but only seen him a couple of times. When she first laid her eyes on her 6-foot-3, 290-something-pound monster of a son on Tuesday, McNeal saw the hard work through his trim frame.

She also saw pride.

“I think he’s just enjoying the fact that it’s his senior year, and it’s a step forward,” McNeal said. “He had to make a decision, ‘Am I gonna go forward, or am I gonna go backwards?’ We talked about it, and I just said, ‘Babe, if you want to do this, you gotta lose the weight.’”

Done. But it’s not like dropping 40 pounds was akin to moving mountains. As Hatch says, “Losing the weight was not hard. Ever since I’ve been here I’ve lost weight. The thing has been gaining it back. There was no doubt that I could lose the weight, it’s just about keeping it off.”

Call it a sense of urgency or blame it on the flicker of light that’s now visible at the end of Hatch’s college career. Whatever it was, it inspired Hatch to kick old habits and, just like that, everything clicked.

“They told me, ‘Hey, just be consistent,’” Hatch said of the message from his coaches. “So I got on a plan and kept my eye on the plan. I just kept saying, ‘Hey, it’s time.’”

Hatch didn’t do this alone. He credits KU coaches John Williams and J.B. Grimes for helping him set the goal. He credits his family and his faith for helping him attack it. And he tips his cap to his teammates, guys he’s shed blood and dripped sweat with, for not letting him fall short.

“Jeremiah Hatch has really come a long way,” offensive-line coach Grimes said. “About this time a year ago, it was not good. It was about as bad as it gets. He was in bad shape, his back was hurt, his knee was hurt, and he was carrying an extra 45 pounds. Now I can wrap my arms around that young man. I couldn’t be more proud of that kid.”

Through Hatch’s eyes, his version of “Extreme Makeover: College Football Edition” is nothing to celebrate. He’s happy because he’s healthy, 100 percent, he says.

“Jeremiah’s always been a person who loves himself,” McNeal said. “It wasn’t, ‘I’m miserable, so I gotta lose the weight.’ It was more, ‘I gotta lose the weight because I’ve got a back problem’ and things like that.”

For him, losing the weight was something he ought to do. After all, he knew what was holding him back.

“We just couldn’t count on him,” Grimes said. “It’s totally the opposite right now.”

Tuesday, KU coach Turner Gill explained how.

“He really has matured just in the year I’ve known him,” Gill said. “He probably was a little more reserved than I wanted him to be, but if that’s who he is, that’s who he is. But I’ve seen him kind of get out of that shell a little bit. He’s a different guy from last year to this year. There’s no question about it. In every way: as a football player, as a person, academically, everything. He’s a different guy, and we anticipate him having a great year,”

Hatch doesn’t need a plaque, heavy praise or even a pat on the back to feel good about getting into better shape. Heck, we’re talking about a young man who didn’t even get overly excited on Christmas morning growing up. Most of the time, he slept right through it.

So you can see how dropping a few pounds that he shouldn’t have been carrying to begin with would not be something to sing and dance about, even if his teammates and coaches seem quite impressed.

“I appreciate the support,” he said. “I love the university. It’s taught me and grown me from a high schooler to a man. So any time I have the chance to represent the university, it’s all smiles.”

Those smiles meant a lot to McNeal, who made her way to the Westin Galleria in Dallas on Tuesday to spend whatever free time she could with her son. Just watching her look at him said it all.

“I see that he’s proud of himself, and he’s happy he’s doing good,” McNeal said. “He’s always questioned, ‘When is it gonna get hard?’ But I’ve always told him, ‘Baby, if you’re blessed and you stay humble, it just goes your way. You’re gonna have to work hard, but things will go your way.’”

The 299 on Hatch’s scale is proof of that. The rest is still ahead.

Comments

redlegger 3 years, 1 month ago

Congratulations Jeremiah! Thank you for representing KU - looking forward to seeing you move the line this year!

Keep smiling and working hard!

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Keith Hummel 3 years, 1 month ago

How can you not love this kid? Way to go Jeremiah! Your next goal is first team all-Big 12.

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rwhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Its a good thing you have captions for your pictures LJW. I would have thought Hatch really changed his look had you not told us that you used a picture of LB Johnson for the article about Hatch. Great work.

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Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

With the real Hatch back, and Spikes healthy (and motivated) as well, we should see a whole new OL, and anyone with any FB knowledge knows the team goes about as far as the the OL can push.

We're still fairly thin numbers wise, unless a couple of the freshmen step up big, and definitely inexperienced beyond the starters, so we need to keep the starters healthy. If they stay healthy, we will be the surprise team of the Big12.

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 1 month ago

Marongelli is back also. I, too, share your optimism...and it can't get much worse than last year! I really do think our OL will be better.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 1 month ago

Actually Hatch, you coach is the biggest los... Nah, won't go there today. Glad this kid is healthy.

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jaymar74 3 years, 1 month ago

who do you think is the better Steelers coach, Chuck Noll or Mike Tomlin?

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number1jayhawker 3 years, 1 month ago

Actually I think you own that title.

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jaydee909 3 years, 1 month ago

Coach Gill's sunflower field awaits you to go spread yourself.

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vd 3 years, 1 month ago

Hatch shows the difference between TG and MM. Last yr. MM would have run Hatch to an ideal playing weight. TG let the kid decide whether he wanted to be a FB player or not. Which is the best way? IMO TG's is the best way, because Hatch will play hard, because he decided to make the sacrifice, someone didn't force him to make the sacrifice.

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Andy Tweedy 3 years, 1 month ago

I think I might agree with that, after all these are still kids, and my experience tells me kids learn much more from their own mistakes than they do from having stuff told to them.

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beenahawk 3 years, 1 month ago

BS! Mangino would have told the kid the problem and moved him down the depth chart until the kid got the message (or NOT). Besides, the Buddah would have looked quite stupid railing on anyone about the need to LOSE weight!

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Cole Hogan 3 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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daverinoku 3 years, 1 month ago

YES! HCTG did not use "from that standpoint" in his sentence!!

I have to say, "He’s a different guy from last year to this year."

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NYHAwk 3 years, 1 month ago

"She has talked to him a lot in the past six months, but only seen him a couple of times. .."

Who is editing this stuff?

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fromthatstandpoint 3 years, 1 month ago

If the whole team displays that kind of commitment and passion, this may be a better season than many are predicting.

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