Promptly at midnight when September arrived, Geirean Hatchett’s cell phone went bonkers.
Welcome to the world of early college football recruiting. That was the real message his phone seemed to be dinging.
“It was dinging and dinging like crazy,” said Hatchett, a versatile and athletic 6-foot-5, 280-pound junior offensive and defensive line standout at Ferndale High. “Lots of college football coaches.”
Hatchett wasn’t shocked. He was well aware, as he put it, “… that coaches can’t text or e-mail a player until September 1 of his junior year.”
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Freshmen and sophomores seldom attract as much football recruiting attention as Hatchett did while helping Ferndale to a combined 20-3 record — with losses to Seattle O’Dea in the Class 3A state playoffs both seasons — while playing first string both ways on the line both years.
“He’s the first player I’ve had do that,” said Ferndale coach Jamie Plenkovich, who is in his 15th season. “We’ve never had a lineman start as a freshman.”
Hatchett, 17, already has a plan to keep his focus firmly on Ferndale football and baseball, in which he is also a good pitcher and first baseman.
Those losses to O’Dea have motivated the All-Wesco 3A North selection to work toward more success — hopefully in the state playoffs — but starting with the annual rivalry game at Lynden on Friday.
The Golden Eagles opened with a 42-14 non-league loss to 4A powerhouse Lake Stevens.
“I’ve had upward of 30 (Division I) coaches indicate an interest,” said Hatchett, who like many offensive linemen — which coaches believe is his college position — is a top-notch student and has a penchant for organization.
His grade-point average is 3.8, further endearing the personable big guy to recruiters.
The coaches already know how to pronounce his name. “It’s like Darren with a G,” he said with a smile.
“My plan is to make my five official college visits next spring, since we can start April 1 of our junior year,” he said. “I can verbally commit any time, but I’d like to verbally commit before my senior year starts. Then I’d like to sign early in late December.”
He says he has already visited numerous colleges unofficially, thanks to his family’s support. Among the schools he will consider is the University of Washington, along with other national powers.
Hatchett can’t help but be excited by the new football red-shirt rule, which took effect this season. Red-shirt players can participate in up to four games — any four games — without burning their red-shirt status. They then can play a full four more seasons.
“I really like the new rule. It‘s a real benefit to the players,” Hatchett said. “I’m hoping that will give me a chance to show what I can do as a freshman.”
Hatchett also is excited by his recovery from foot surgery in May.
“I had a metatarsal fracture. It developed over time and apparently was caused by a stress fracture that I never knew I had,” he said. “I feel I’m back to 100 percent after being 80 percent in (early) August after I took off the walking boot. I‘ve worked hard (to recover).”
Plenkovich recalls being impressed when Hatchett followed the urging of older friends and began working out with them in the eighth grade. He has never let up since.
“Geirean has a real good work ethic. He has a pretty good head on his shoulders,” the veteran coach said. “This will be the first season he starts at defensive tackle. Previously, he has been a defensive end.”
Hatchett, who has played tackle football since third grade, said he “still loves defense, too” — even though his college future seems on the offensive line.
“I’m going to treasure playing defense these last two years at Ferndale,” he said.
Lynden quarterback James Marsh, a four-year varsity player, said he saw Hatchett from the sideline last season, because Marsh had not quite recovered from an early season injury.
“He’s really, really good,” he said. “He’s definitely got the size.”
Lions coach Blake VanDalen called Hatchett “a once-in-a-career type lineman for a coach.”
“I would say he is a humble kid,” VanDalen said. “His work ethic is what separates him from so many other top prospects.”
Now VanDalen can only hope that Hatchett won’t help separate Ferndale from Lynden on Friday night.
WEEK 2 SCHEDULE
Friday, Sept. 7
▪ Granite Falls at Nooksack Valley, 7 p.m.
▪ Anacortes at Lynden Christian, 7 p.m.
▪ Ferndale at Lynden, 7 p.m.
▪ Blaine at Bothell Cedar Park Christian (at Redmond), 7 p.m.
▪ Arlington at Squalicum (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
▪ La Conner at Lummi, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8
▪ Colville at Meridian (at Peshastin-Dryden Sports Complex), 1 p.m.
▪ Lakewood at Bellingham (at Civic Stadium), 4 p.m.
▪ Mount Baker at Sehome (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.