Jason Hatcher: Diamond in the Rough

Parcells quick to answer what the Cowboys liked about Grambling State's Jason Hatcher.

Head coach Bill Parcells looked shocked when he was asked what the Cowboys liked about Grambling State defensive end Jason Hatcher. "Are you serious?" he asked the reporter. "He's 6-foot-6, he runs a 4.7 (in the 40-yard dash) and he's 295 pounds. There's a lot to like."

At Grambling State, Hatcher was so superior physically that he frequently dominated games. "A man among boys at that level," one member of the Cowboys' scouting staff called him.

But despite all of his physical attributes, Hatcher faces a huge learning curve. Grambling State has some good athletes, but the overall talent level -- and that of the team's opponents -- is not in the same league with that found at Ohio State or Notre Dame, which produced the Cowboys top two draft picks (Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Fasano, respectively).

Hatcher not only played against a lower level of competition, but he also is relatively new to the defensive end position. Until the beginning of his junior year, he was a wide receiver.

The transition, Hatcher said, was a natural.

"I went to tight end first," he said. "I was big, and I liked hitting people, I liked the contact. I was a really physical tight end, because I loved that contact.

"But I also had a little bit of a defensive mentality. I played outside linebacker in high school."

Hatcher acknowledged that he's still in the embryonic stage of understanding his new position.

"I didn't come from the best of the best of coaching," he said. "I definitely think I can make an impact at this level, but right now, I'm just hoping to get into the (defensive end) rotation."

Analysts have speculated that as he becomes more comfortable with his position, and absorbs the information he'll garner from older players and NFL coaching, Hatcher eventually could become even more dominant at the NFL level than he was in college.

"I definitely think that's possible," he said. "I'm going to listen to the coaches, to everything they have to say. Right now, I'm OK rushing the passer -- I do a pretty good job. But I know I need to polish up against the run."

Hatcher said that while Grambling's status might have affected when he was drafted, but said that now that he's in the NFL, his background makes him no different from every other rookie.

"All of that went out the window when we got here," he said. "Everyone puts on their pants the same way. We're all the same now."

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