In the words of Thomson football coach Luther Welsh, Jesse Hatcher is "big time" these days.
The former standout linebacker for the Bulldogs and later for Clemson is now a star on a different kind of playing field. The successful businessman left the gridiron years ago, but he said it was the lessons learned there that helped him become what he is.
Former Thomson Bulldog Jesse Hatcher closes in to help with a tackle during a Clemson game against Virginia Tech on September 3, 1988.
Photo by Morris News Service
"(Coach Welsh's) whole leadership style is one that is transferable across all businesses and all types of activity," Mr. Hatcher said. "I've somewhat patterned my leadership after his. I try to work with the people that I'm responsible for rather than having them work for me...
"It's not about me," Mr. Hatcher cited as the most important thing he learned from his days of Bulldog football. "It's about developing people, helping them be the best they can be. Because if you're developing people, you sure learn a lot, and you give a lot. That's a gift you can see as long as they're living."
The 1985 THS graduate won a state title with the Bulldogs before moving on to play for a junior college in California. From there he transferred to Clemson.
During his senior year in high school he also kept busy serving in the reserves.
He is now a major in the National Guard. In fact, two of his friends have served with the Guard in Iraq, Lonnie Lott and Teddy Butler. Mr. Hatcher made sure to thank them for their service.
Despite his notoriety from the military, it is his full-time job from which most people know him these days. He works for Deloitte and Touche, Deloitte Consulting out of Atlanta.
Mr. Hatcher's job consists of management consulting services for some of the company's larger accounts. He has helped redesign sales and service processes and implemented huge enterprise systems.
"He was an outstanding football player and an outstanding person," Coach Welsh said of Mr. Hatcher. "He has a great deal of character, integrity, and he always wanted to do the right thing. ... I knew he was going to make good. He's one of the ones who prepared himself, and now, he's making pretty good money."
Though it's mostly business these days, Mr. Hatcher said some of his most fond memories are of playing football in the Brickyard. He always knew he could win as a Bulldog because of preparation and confidence in his teammates. He added that he was prepared both academically and athletically for the next level while at Thomson.
"If you don't do anything else, ever in your life, if you play on that football team, you know you were a part of something special," Mr. Hatcher said.
Another of the standouts from that same Thomson team who also had a huge college career was Jerry Mays. Mr. Hatcher met the future Georgia Tech running back - one of his closest friends - while playing on a mound of dirt near both of their homes before they were even old enough to start school.
Since both played college football in the Atlantic Coast Conference, they did get one game against each other. Mr. Mays told neighborhood kids he was going to run for a touchdown on the first play against the Clemson defense. Mr. Hatcher had a different idea of what would happen.
"They're going to snap the ball. He's going to run for it. I'm going to hit him in the mouth and knock him on the ground," Mr. Hatcher remembered telling the kids as well as Mr. Mays.
"The first play of the game, they put him in the slot, just like he said they would," Mr. Hatcher said. "I looked inside like I didn't see Jerry, and Jerry took off up field. And when he got close to me, I swerved my head around and looked at him, and I hit him dead in the mouth. And I said ‘I told you.' He didn't say a word. He got up and ran back to the huddle."
Mr. Mays did get his revenge, though. In the third quarter, Georgia Tech used a similar play, and Mr. Mays scored on a 65-yard run.
"We called it a draw on the individual performances in that game," Mr. Hatcher said.
ABOUT THIS FEATURE:
The McDuffie Mirror will be profiling former local athletes - both Bulldogs and Bucs - in this occassional series. If you have a former athlete you'd like to see in The Mirror, please call Janet at 597-0335 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.