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At least that's the opinion of new 2009 Razorback football commit Derek Hatcher (6-1, 205), a quarterback from of Orange Park (Fla.) Ridgeview.
Hatcher, who threw for over 2,300 yards and 18 touchdowns this past season while leading his school to its most successful season ever, confirmed Tuesday that will join Arkansas' quarterback mix as a preferred walk on.
"I had several offers to Division II schools, but I am like everybody else – my dream is to play Division I football at a elite school," Hatcher said Tuesday afternoon. "When it came time to sign, I just decided to take my chances and see what might be out there later. It has turned out great for me. We had a ceremony here at school today and I am very excited that I am going to be a Razorback."
He joins redshirt sophomore Ryan Mallett, redshirt freshmen Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood and incoming freshman Brandon Mitchell as quarterbacks that will be on the UA roster. Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Middle Tennessee State and Western Michigan were all trying to get Hatcher to take the same preferred walk on route.
But when the door opened to Arkansas, that ended all doubt. He can thank teammate Alex Wulfeck, a punter who took a visit to Fayetteville after national signing date.
"Alex took a visit up there and loved it and I got him to take my tape along to give them figuring that it couldn't hurt," Hatcher said. "One of the best things I could have ever done as it turned out."
The tape got into the hands of Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino.
"Coach Petrino called my dad about two days later and said they wanted to offer me a spot as a preferred walk on," Hatcher said. "He said he liked what he saw on tape and thought I could help them and had a lot of potential."
Hatcher said he was blown away talking to Petrino.
"That was a big factor in me coming there," Hatcher said. "Coach Petrino said he loves good quarterbacks and he sees something in me that he likes and can develop. He said that he considers me to be a lot like a quarterback he had at Louisville in Stefan Lefors."
Hatcher thinks he was overlooked because of his size.
"I have always had to battle people telling me I am too small at 6-0 or 6-1 to play at the highest level," Hatcher said. "But I just put my head down and worked harder when I heard that and now I am getting this shot to prove them all wrong.
"I think my footwork in the pocket is my biggest strength," Hatcher added. "I need to get stronger to help me make all the throws you do on the next level, but I know that will come."
Hatcher led his team to an 8-5 mark this season and three rounds deep into the Class 4A state playoffs.
In addition to the 2,300 passing yards, he rushed for over 600 yards and 6 more scores.
"It was the first district title in our school's history and it's been around for 11 years," Hatcher said. "It was quite a way for us to end our senior season after going 2-8 as sophomores and 4-6 as juniors.
"We beat Nease – Tim Tebow's old school – twice and also beat Lake City Columbia, the winningest school in South Florida football history," Hatcher said. "It turned out to be a magical run for our team and school, especially from we came from as sophomores."
Hatcher amassed his yardage despite missing a full nine quarters during the season.
"That was something new to us, being up 30 points and putting in the reserves and standing over there on the sideline. It was a great feeling. Our coaches didn't want to run up the score on people because we remember what it felt like when they did it on us back when we were sophomores and people were having their way with us."
Class 4A football in Florida is very highly regarded.
"I think we figured that we came up against 32 players in our games that ended up signing high major Division I scholarships," Hatcher said. "It's great, great competition down here in Class 4A football in Florida."
Wulfeck will end up walking on at Wake Forest while teammate Tyler Bass, his favorite wide receiver, is headed to Division II University of Charleston.
"He (Bass) is my best friend and is a 5-7 guy that can really jump and caught everything I got near him," Hatcher said. "It would be nice to continue throwing to him, but I want to give this Division I thing a chance."
Hatcher has never been to the state of Arkansas and thus never visited the UA campus – something he will soon rectify.
"I am coming up real soon for spring practice and I am definitely going to be up there for the spring game in April 18," Hatcher said. "In fact, I will probably be up there four or five times before I start summer school there on June 29. I am as excited about this as I can be."
Photo courtesy of Derek Hatcher