Middle Georgia football coach follows in 'dad's footsteps'

    Chris Hatcher/Samford Athletics

    MACON, Ga. -- Growing up in a home surrounded by football, it was only natural for Chris Hatcher to make the game his profession.

    "Very early," he said. "I don't know if there was a particular time. I just always knew I wanted to be a coach. Actually, I wanted to be a high school coach and follow in my dad's footsteps at that level."

    Hatcher's father Edgar was a legendary coach at Southwest, Northeast and Monroe Academy -- where he won a pair of state titles and gave his son a sneak peek at all the highs and the lows the game could bring.

    "I remember riding home many a night and complaining about how bad the referees were or celebrating a big win at the pizza parlor off of Eisenhower Parkway," Hatcher said. "Going through that experience molded me into knowing that I wanted to be a coach and be around young people -- try to help them become better throughout the course of their life."

    After a record-breaking playing career at Valdosta State, Hatcher became the head coach at his alma matter, leading them to a national title in 2004. From there, he's been the head coach at Georgia Southern and Murray State. Now, he's settled in at Samford -- turning the bulldogs into a program the nation has taken notice of.

    "We've built this place into a top 25 program," Hatcher said. "Trying to consistently stay at that level and get a little bit better each and every year. Nothing comes easy. You have to have good coaches and good players to be successful."

    Though Hatcher has traveled all across the country in the past two decades, he said his dad has been there for every game.

    "My son is a freshman on the team," Hatcher said. "Before he graduated high school, dad would come over to all of his high school games then spend the night. Wherever we played, he would go over to the ball games. So it's been a lot of fun having him involved and having three generations of Hatchers on the field either Friday night or Saturday afternoon for our football games."

    Chris isn't the only one in his family that got the coaching bug. His cousin Keith followed him to three of his four head coaching stops, picking up a lot of lessons along the way.

    "Most of what I've learned from coaching has come from Chris," he said. "A lot of that translates here to Mount De Sales. Our kids don't know that all the time. Chris likes to have fun, I like to have fun. So a lot of the things we do, I picked up during my time with him."

    Keith is now the head coach at the school all the Hatchers grew up in -- Mount De Sales. He has helped take the Cavaliers from the bottom to the top one step at a time.

    "We've had some rough nights and some growing pains, but we have a great group of young kids and parents that have bought in to what we're trying to do," Keith said. "We've really developed a great off-season program that they've invested in. The last two years we've made the playoffs.

    "Won nine games last year, which was only the tenth time in 68 years of football here at Mount De Sales. We are certainly moving in the right direction and we hope to continue that next season."

    Family is the most important thing to both Chris and Keith. They've had their kids at the stadium and the practice fields from the start, as they look to raise their kids just like coach Edgar Hatcher did.

    "Looking back, you don't remember the time when dad might've missed your game because he had a game," Chris said. "You remember the times when you were on the sidelines leading his teams to victory and things of that nature. That's what we put a premium on -- doing all the little things they get to do that normal families are not involved in."

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