Hatchett determined not to be cut
Gabe Hatchett knows it’s a long journey from being an undrafted free agent to making an NFL opening day roster. But Hatchett is determined to finish that journey.
The 2001 Douglas High graduate was signed as a free agent on Sunday by the Miami Dolphins. He begins his journey to make the Dolphins active roster for the 2007 regular season on Thursday when he reports to the team’s rookie mini-camp.
He will go through two-a-day practices on Friday and Saturday and another practice on Sunday. Hatchett knows it will be a long road through this week’s mini-camp, another mini-camp, training camp and preseason to the Dolphins’ active roster.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Hatchett said. “There’s a lot of players competing for the same prize. We’ve got a long ways ahead of us.”
But Hatchett likes his chances. Hatchett hasn’t just been invited to the mini-camp as many players are so teams just have enough bodies for practice.
The Dolphins have followed Hatchett since he was at Southern Oregon last fall and called him 40 minutes after Sunday’s NFL draft is over. So it figures the Dolphins are going to take a long, hard look at him as long as he performs as expected, which Hatchett obviously plans to do.
“I’m going to be early,” said Hatchett about all the practices at mini-camp. “I’m going to go real hard every time and not give them a reason to cut me just because I’m an undrafted free agent from Southern Oregon. I’m sure they don’t want to cut me.”
Hatchett said it became clear he wasn’t going to be drafted a week before the draft. But he was told he would be contacted by teams, although no calls came until last Thursday. There weren’t any calls on Friday and Saturday, but then the Dolphins called on Sunday.
Several teams showed interest in Hatchett, including the Philadelphia Eagles. At 6-1 1/4 and 217 pounds, Hatchett has the size and the speed for a receiver that’s attractive to NFL teams.
He also had a solid performance during a workout for NFL scouts at the University of Nevada. He had been working on his speed at Reno’s Velocity Sports Performance and ended up running a 4.58 40.
He had a 37-inch verticle jump and was impressive in running his routs and catching the ball. “I did very well,” Hatchett said. “I definitely got a lot of good feedback from that.”
The one minor disappointment was Hatchett was only able to do 12 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, below his school record of 16 reps at Southern Oregon. But the 12 reps was still a solid effort. “My grip was just a little too close or something,” Hatchett said.
Ironically, the Dolphins scout wasn’t at the workout, but had seen enough of Hatchett at Southern Oregon’s practices last year. In seven games last year for Southern Oregon, Hatchett caught 25 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. “They were trying to keep me under the radar,” said Hatchett about the Dolphins.
As an undrafted free agent, Hatchett’s signing bonus wasn’t “that much. I didn’t worry about signing bonuses and stuff like that.
“I just want to go to a team where I have the best chance sticking with. You want to make the team. You want to be on the active roster.”
While the Arena Football and Canadian Football Leagues were options – Canadian teams called him as well – Hatchett was certainly glad to sign with an NFL team because “that’s why I’ve been working so hard.”
If Hatchett doesn’t make the active roster, the goal is to at least make the 53-man roster in which he’ll practice with the team throughout the season and have a chance to be activated during the year.
And even if he doesn’t make the Dolphins roster, he could still be picked up by another team or eventually end up in NFL Europe.
Hatchett said he takes pride in representing Douglas County. “I love the community,” he said.
He and his father, Alonzo, will conduct Alonzo’s Skills Camp for youth players from June 21-24 at Lampe Park and Gabe said other college football players he played with are scheduled to attend as well. For more information, the e-mail address is ASSC2007@charter.net.