Tommy Hatton's Blog

Future Tar Heel Tommy Hatton, an offensive lineman from Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional, is filing regular blog entries at InsideCarolina.com leading up to his UNC enrollment in June. In entry No. 3, Hatton reflects on his MVP-winning experience at the nation's most prestigious high school combine: The Opening.

The Opening
Posted by Tommy on June 10, 2015

When I went to the Nike Training Camp at the New York Jets Training facility, I expected to get invited to The Opening. I wasn’t ranked that high, so I wasn’t expecting to get the invite based off my ranking and offers. I knew I had to perform well.

I arrived with a huge chip on my shoulder, because I was only a three-star prospect on every web site but I knew I was better than a lot of the kids there.

I performed well enough to make it to the final five linemen one-on-one. Five-star 2017 defensive tackle Rashan Gary and I went against each other. Him and I are really good friends – we work out a lot together. He’s a really good player and the toughest player I’ve gone up against, by far. I beat him two reps and he beat me one.

At the conclusion of the camp, I not only got the offensive line MVP, but I got invited to The Opening right on the spot. In my mind I knew I was going to go, but at the moment when Todd Hubert asked me what I was doing in July I was overwhelmed. All I could say was, “Not anything.” And then he said, “You want to come to The Opening?”

In July, I flew out to Portland for The Opening with my fellow Jersey boys – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Rashan, Juwan Johnson, and Brandon Wimbush. Chris Clark was supposed to come, but he ended up not going because he got hurt.

Actually, two weeks before The Opening, I hurt my hamstring very badly – to the point where I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to go. I wasn’t even able to walk, so I didn’t get to train like I had wanted to. I was nervous about that. And then it obviously was a long flight to Oregon – six or seven hours – so just sitting there for that long didn’t really help my hamstring. When I got there, I really didn’t know how my hamstring was going to hold up.

The first day, it was the testing and the no pads drills. I just told them I didn’t want to take a chance in reinjuring my hamstring by running the 40-yard dash and have to sit in my room the whole weekend. But I did the no pads drills and I did pretty well in that – I think I made Scout.com’s top performers. Personally, I wasn’t really happy with my performance, because I lost to Daron Payne – I didn’t think he could beat me – and Rashan. Rashan and I were actually the first rep, which is kind of funny because we flew to Oregon to compete but we could have just settled it at a gym five minutes from my house.

On the second day, we had the pads on, so I knew it was going to get real. What made it even better was it was the first day that LeCharles Bentley was there. I really listened to him, because he was one of the best centers in the NFL and he’s a good guy to listen to.

My good friend Richie Petitbone worked together on the run blocking and combo drills. Honestly, we kicked ass – we were killing kids.

And then during one-on-one pass rush, I did really well. But, Fred Ulu-Perry, he had a fantastic day and he was a center, too, so he made it to the final five. I was kind of bummed about that, because I was happy with my performance. I won most of my one-on-ones and I went up against Terry Beckner, Daylon Mack, and Tim Settle.

I’ll never forget the third day. I knew it was my last day, so I knew I had to leave it all out there to get the MVP and make the final five and get on ESPN (the only linemen reps that got on ESPN were the final five). That day, I killed it – I’m not even lying. My intensity was through the roof and I didn’t lose any one-on-ones.

The coaches met and I get selected for the final five – and got to get on ESPN. My first opponent was Dylan Mack. That dude is a bull – just a straight bull, gets off the ball fast and is powerful. The first rep I got him – I just got underneath of him and sat down. The second rep, he got me – I set up too high, I thought he was going to make an inside move, and he just got me on skates. And then the third rep, I unfortunately broke my ankle. I think I had the rep, though, but hands off to him because he’s a stud.

I really didn’t know what was going to happen. Was I going to miss my whole senior year? The good news was I ended up taking home offensive lineman MVP.

The Nike Opening was probably one of the best experiences of my life. From the coaching to the gear to being at Nike World Headquarters, it was great. You get to see gear that hasn’t dropped yet. You get to see pros like Richard Sherman, Ndamukong Suh, and Trent Williams – and they’re coaching you.

Entry #2 - My Recruitment

Entry #1 - I Love Competition


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