High School Football

This Ferndale lineman has more college football offers than any player in school history – including Jake Locker

Offensive lineman Geirean Hatchett, 17, stands for a portrait at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash. on Jan. 24, 2019. Hatchett has received 27 offers from football programs across the country.
Offensive lineman Geirean Hatchett, 17, stands for a portrait at Ferndale High School in Ferndale, Wash. on Jan. 24, 2019. Hatchett has received 27 offers from football programs across the country. lacey.young@bellinghamherald.com

Geirean Hatchett considered this thought when the college football offers started rolling in after his sophomore season at Ferndale High School.

Located just 15 miles south of the Canadian border, and about 7 miles east of the Salish Sea coastline, which connects to the Pacific Ocean, might he be the 2020 recruit nestled deepest in the Northwest?

“I like to say that I’m probably the most Northwest recruit in the country,” Hatchett said with a smile.

There may be other recruits up in that corner, but Hatchett, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound lineman for the Golden Eagles, is certainly the most sought after.

A junior, he is considered a consensus four-star offensive guard, the top lineman in Washington in his class, and has collected 26 scholarship offers — more than any other football player in his school’s history, including former Washington Huskies and Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker.

“I think it’s pretty cool coming from here,” Hatchett said. “A lot of the (heavily recruited) guys go to schools like Eastside Catholic, or schools in California like Mater Dei or (Saint John) Bosco. I think it’s cool seeing someone like me who can come from a small town like Ferndale.”

Hatchett is one of 17 players from the Northwest who are “Nuggets-In-Waiting” for the 2020 class. He is one of six in the region that has more than 10 offers — but the only one who plays outside of Seattle’s Metro League.

Four players from Eastside Catholic — running back Sam Adams, defensive back Ayden Hector, tight end D.J. Rogers and wide receiver Gee Scott, who is committed to Ohio State — have also been highly sought after. And Garfield linebacker Sav’ell Smalls is the consensus No. 4 player in the country in 2020.

Hatchett, who is ranked as the No. 2 offensive lineman on the West Coast in the class, trailing only Mater Dei’s Myles Murao in projection rating, has quietly built a strong reputation.

Jamie Plenkovich has coached at Ferndale for the past 15 years, and never had a freshman lineman start both ways until Hatchett, who participated in offseason workouts with the Golden Eagles as an eighth-grader.

“The first thing that stood out to me was his work ethic,” Plenkovich said. “He obviously had a goal for himself that he wanted to come in and play right away, and really worked from the moment we saw him.”

Hatchett won starting jobs at offensive guard and defensive end his freshman season, and has been a staple of Ferndale’s offense and defense since. Running the Golden Eagles’ wing-T offense, he quickly became an exceptional run-blocker, which produced impressive film.

“We played him at our week guard spot, which is somebody that is pulling all the time, and has to be our most athletic lineman,” Plenkovich said. “The fact that you could turn on tape of him, and watch how good he was in space ... it’s pretty easy to pick out how athletic he was.

“Most big guys really struggle with getting on second-level defenders, or, as they pull, actually being able to lock up with somebody in space, but he was able to show that on film early.”

Ferndale advanced to the Class 3A state playoffs Hatchett’s freshman season, but it was his sophomore year, when the Golden Eagles reached the quarterfinals, that Plenkovich recognized the caliber of player Hatchett could develop into.

“Early as a freshman, you’re wondering how he’s going to do physically through a 10-game season and through the playoffs,” Plenkovich said. “He’s going to play against guys who are 17 or 18 years old. How is he going to hold up there? And he did a great job as a freshman, but you’re still not totally sure what that ceiling is going to be.

“His sophomore year is when you really started seeing, ‘OK, this guy is a pretty elite level lineman.’ ”

Hatchett’s first college offer came a week after his sophomore season ended. He took an unofficial visit to Oklahoma, when the Sooners hosted West Virginia, and left with his first of 25 Power 5 offers. Two words he tweeted with an announcement of the offer — “mind blown” — and a photo of him standing in the crimson end zone captured the moment.

“It meant a lot,” said Hatchett, whose father Bill played college football at Western Washington. “It brought a lot of stress off of my shoulders. I think I knew I would get some offers, even if they weren’t a big, huge school. When I was a freshman, a couple of guys I played with went to Central. I thought Central would be awesome, or Eastern would be awesome.

“And then, when the first one comes from a school that big, I was like, ‘Whoa.’ ... I really wanted to get that first offer, and know I’m going to play in college, because that’s my dream.”

A week later, Hatchett posted a photo with UW coach Chris Petersen, announcing the Huskies had offered. In the months that followed, more started pouring in to bring Hatchett to the 26 he has now — which includes 11 of the Pac-12 schools, five SEC schools, five Big 12 schools, three Big Ten schools, one ACC school and Notre Dame.

Hatchett has unofficially visited many of them, and plans to set up his five official visits beginning this spring. He said he would ideally like to make his verbal commitment before September, but has not set a firm timetable.

He plans to spend the rest of the winter continuing his football training — at Bellingham’s Gritworks Athletics, at Ford Sports Performance in Bellevue, and sometimes on his own — before resuming pitching for Ferndale’s baseball team in the spring.

“He’s on the right track,” Plenkovich said. “He just needs another year of working to get better, and I have no doubt he’s going to do that.”

As the mail piles up — Hatchett has a tub full of letters and posters from colleges he thinks might way close to 100 pounds — and coaches continue to make contact, Hatchett remains humble about the experience. Plus he has a former Golden Eagles star to confide in who has been through this before.

Ferndale has produced one Northwest Nugget in its history — Locker, who was honored in 2006. He was a top Northwest quarterback recruit before he went on to UW, and then played four seasons in the NFL.

Since retiring from professional football, Locker has returned to Ferndale, where he is now the high school’s offensive coordinator.

“I think the fact that Geirean knows he has someone to go talk to that’s been in the same situation, and has stayed humble and handled it extremely well, is huge,” Plenkovich said. “If he wants to know about any part of this process, he has someone who’s been in his shoes.”

Locker had nine FBS offers in high school, primarily from Pac-12 schools, before shutting down his recruitment and choosing the Huskies. Plenkovich said under the current recruiting landscape — schools offer earlier and more often — Locker would likely be as sought after as Hatchett.

Hatchett said he and Locker discuss the recruiting process on occasion, and that Locker has helped him along the way, but the two more often prefer to talk about “life and school and God, and how everything is going.”

He said the best advice Locker has given him is to stay humble throughout the process, and make the decision that is best for him.

“I think he meant a lot to everybody in Ferndale, and in Washington in general,” Hatchett said. “He’s kind of talked to me about his whole process, and just wants mine to be similar, where I make (the decision) for me, and not for anybody else.”

“One thing that (Geirean) and Jake have in common is how they’ve handled this,” Plenkovich said. “They’ve still stayed grounded. ... Both of them did a great job, and Geirean continues to do a great job of staying grounded and humble. I haven’t seen a change in his work ethic.”

NUGGETS-IN-WAITING — CLASS OF 2020

RB Sam Adams, Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.)

LB Andy Alfieri, Jesuit (Portland, Ore.)

OL Carson Bruener, Redmond (Redmond, Wash.)

DB Donovan Clark, Sumner (Sumner, Wash.)

OL Geirean Hatchett, Ferndale (Ferndale, Wash.)

DB Ayden Hector, Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.)

RB Jalen John, Lakeridge (Lake Oswego, Ore.)

DB Kasen Kinchen, Lake Stevens (Lake Stevens, Wash.)

LB Peter Latu, Bethel (Spanaway, Wash.)

DB Max Lenzy, Tigard (Portland, Ore.)

OL Gaard Memmelaar, Middleton (Middleton, Idaho)

WR Sawyer Racanelli, Hockinson (Brush Prairie, Wash.)

TE D.J. Rogers, Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.)

WR Gee Scott Jr., Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash.)

LB Sav’ell Smalls, Garfield (Seattle, Wash.)

WR Silas Starr, Central Catholic (Portland, Ore.)

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Lauren Smith covers the Seattle Mariners for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports at TNT and The Olympian, beginning in 2015. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Emerald Ridge High School.


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