For Keon Hatcher, it’s the classic case of ‘what a difference a year can make.’ Last July, he was battling for a spot amongst a large group of fellow unproven receivers with the backdrop of COVID restrictions and some sketchy air quality in Kamloops brought on by the nearby forest fire devastation.
Fast forward ten months and all of a sudden he was taking first-team reps alongside the likes of Bryan Burnham, Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes. Yes, the Arkansas product emerged from 2021 as one of those surprising camp survivors and would parlay it into seven games on the active roster while recording 241 receiving yards and a pair of majors. He looks to take an even bigger step in year two and draw on the experience of starting with a higher place on the depth chart.
“Definitely. That just comes with more repetitions, getting to know the staff and putting in that work, man,” said Hatcher following Friday’s session at Hillside Stadium.
“I feel like I came on a little bit toward the end of last year and now I expect to have an even bigger season.”
With the goal of being even more productive in his mind, Hatcher hit the off-season training regimen hard upon returning to his off-season home in Dallas. Being in the Lonestar State also allows him to balance his top priorities: football and fatherhood.
Hatcher Loves The Dad Life
With any profession comes the added pressure and responsibility to put food on the table. Hatcher’s football goals are tied to his three-year-old daughter, Zoey, whom he enjoys spending time with and caring for away from the field. Fatherhood certainly brings upon a new perspective when it comes to life in general.
“Dad life is the most important thing,” explained Hatcher.
“She’s a big deal in my life and I love her very much. Balancing her with football is definitely a blessing.”
It certainly can’t be easy playing thousands of miles away from loved ones, especially during a time last season with those previously mentioned travel restrictions. With any luck, an increased role will mean the opportunity for loved ones to make more trips up from Texas in the near future. When it comes to reflecting on how far he has come in less than a year, Hatcher thinks back to a big milestone, in more ways than one, from the 2021 season.
The Big Birthday Debut
Hatcher was activated for his Lions debut in week five of last season, a 45-13 beatdown of the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
For a player who saw game action with the Oakland Raiders in 2018 and also had a practice roster stint with the Green Bay Packers for a portion of the following season, this was still very much a feather in the cap for all the hard work he put in. The debut against Ottawa was memorable for more than just one reason.
“My first start was also on my birthday,” he said with a laugh.
“I came out and also scored a touchdown in my first game and I was like, ‘man, this is surreal.’ It was a nice welcome to the CFL.”
It was also his first CFL reception. Talk about making an early impression and earning a nice birthday gift for yourself. It also served as some nice vindication for a resilient Hatcher who never gave up on his pro dreams despite suffering a broken foot in his senior year at Arkansas and then being cut by a few NFL teams before moving north.
He also can’t get enough of his teammates. That was evident during the brief work stoppage where Hatcher engaged in some regular pick up basketball games with several of the guys at the Kamloops facilities. Those special bonds will last a lifetime.
“It’s very special. That bond is going to get you through the tough times. A season always has its ups and downs. It’s all about how you react,” he explained.
And now, it’s all about turning up the volume in year two.
“It’s all about playmaking ability. I started off on fire last year and I expect to pick up off that, dominate and do my thing.”