Hatton Returning To Action

North Carolina’s four-star center commitment, Tommy Hatton, has been cleared to participate in Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional’s season-opener on Sept. 5.

“I’m pumped,” Hatton said. “I’ve been waiting so long to get out on the field with my team. I’m a captain and I just want to get back on the field and grind for my fourth state championship ring.”

Hatton fractured his fibula malleolus in his right leg while participating in The Opening in July. The 6-foot-2, 274-pounder suffered the injury during the final one-on-one rep against Texas A&M pledge Daylon Mack, a 6-foot-1, 330-pound defensive tackle.

“[Mack] was really strong and at the point-of-attack just jacks you up,” Hatton said. “He jacked me up and I was sitting down – they teach you on a bull rush you have to lower your pads and sit down… The whistle blew and I had won the rep. I was just off-balance and his weight was on me wrong and I just fell over. All I remember was just feeling my right foot go all the way forward. Boom. And then it went all the way back.

“I just knew something was up. So I was just really scared at that point, because I didn’t know what I did and I’m going into my senior season. But thank God it was just a small fracture.”

On July 16, Hatton had surgery on his ankle in New York City.

Two weeks after surgery, a boot was placed on Hatton’s right foot. He had continued to work out his upper body following the injury, but wasn’t able to do anything with his lower body until he began sporting the boot. At that point, he began using the Power Plate, a vibrating base that its makers claim works muscles deeper. Once the boot was removed, Hatton resumed cardio workouts.

“I’ve been killing it on the workouts,” Hatton said. “… I worked out at this sports recovery place where all they do is work with NFL players and they literally kicked my ass every day I go there. Like, I am dying.

“I’m expecting not to skip a beat when I’m out there strength-wise, power-wise, and being in-shape. Being in football shape, that’s one thing – you can’t simulate that. But from a cardiovascular shape, I think I’m as good as I was, if not better.”

On Aug. 1, practice opened officially for St. Joseph Regional without Hatton participating. Regardless, Hatton has observed from the sidelines for all but one session. Furthermore, he stays afterwards to watch film with his coaches.

“I just break down as much film as possible,” Hatton said. “I coach up kids. Obviously I’d like to be out there, but it has allowed me to be a second coach to my head coach because he’s the O-line coach…

“I just try to be around the game as much as possible. If I don’t, I was going to go crazy.”

Hatton has been cleared to practice beginning on Monday, Sept. 1.

“I actually healed faster than they expected,” Hatton said. “I’m good to go. I’m feeling great. My ankle is getting better every single day. I just can’t wait to get back on the field.”

Hatton will suit up for the season opener, but likely won’t play unless he’s needed. He definitely will, though, start the Sept. 13 matchup against No. 10 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward.

“[St. Edward] is the game they want me to be healthy for,” Hatton said.

St. Joseph Regional plays and practices on Saturdays during the fall, which will further complicate Hatton’s attempts to attend a UNC home game this season. SJR has a bye the weekend of Nov. 15. Hatton and his parents are trying to get to Chapel Hill for the Tar Heels’ homecoming game against Pittsburgh. Additionally, he’d like to attend UNC’s grudge match with NC State on Nov. 29.

Hatton last visited UNC for Fedora’s Freak Show in June.

“It was a great experience,” Hatton said. “UNC did a great job of organizing it. Coach ‘Kap’ [Chris Kapilovic] had told me for a long time it was going to be a great experience and it certainly was. It lived up to the hype.

“All the top recruits were there. I got to bond with some of the guys on the team, especially Juval Mollette and Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Those guys I still talk to all the time. All the commits, we’re all so close – that’s the one thing about this class.”

Hatton also continues to speak regularly with Larry Fedora and UNC assistants Kapilovic and Seth Littrell.

“Those are the three guys that really recruited me,” Hatton said. “It’s cool. I love those guys. I committed to there not just only for them, but they were a big reason. I can’t wait to play for Coach Kap.”

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