Football alums take Hatcher challenge for cause

Ray DiMonda
Posted 8/2/17

ORANGE PARK - In its second annual collection of area football stars and former stars, the Derek Hatcher Foundation's fight to raise awareness to Opioid Addiction, the downfall of one of Clay …

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Football alums take Hatcher challenge for cause

Posted

ORANGE PARK - In its second annual collection of area football stars and former stars, the Derek Hatcher Foundation's fight to raise awareness to Opioid Addiction, the downfall of one of Clay County's finest quarterbacks, showed out Saturday morning at Dye-Clay YMCA at the QB-5 flag football tournament.

“When I pulled up this morning, I thought last year the parking lot wasn’t full," said David Hatcher, father to Derek Hatcher, a Ridgeview High standout quarterback who died of a drug overdose a year ago while trying out for his third college football team; Webber International University in Lake Wales. "This year, the parking lot was full. I think everyone likes getting out here early. It’s a great turnout. When you have a foundation, you want it to grow and that’s what it’s doing.”

Derek Lee Hatcher was a standout quarterback at Ridgeview High School, setting numerous Clay County records in his four years of play. At graduation, Hatcher was recruited and signed with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks as a punter.

After a year with Arkansas, Hatcher sensed a gap between the business end of big-time college football and searched for a smaller, religion based college. He later transferred to Charleston Southern University where he was nearly named the starting quarterback, but was also introduced to the drugs that eventually got him kicked out of school.

After returning home and working on getting sober, Hatcher fell prey to harder drugs and the associated crimes. Hatcher's world spiraled quickly out of control after being arrested and jailed.

After a somewhat successful rehabilitation program that required Hatcher to talk to high school teams about the drug addiction and lifestyle that stole his ambition, Hatcher had his second chance with a walk-on tryout at Webber.

But, the lore of the addiction soon resurfaced and Hatcher was found dead of an overdose while readying to play football again on Feb., 21, 2016.

Faced with this tragedy, his mother, Debbie Kelly, made her own choice; she could hold in the pain, or turn this around and do something. QB-5 had its birth.

“I had a nephew who was 13 when Derek passed away, he loved Derek, and he thought- Let’s do a Flag-Football Tournament, so here we are," said Kelly. "This is our second year and we have 20 teams this year. The proceeds of the event go towards substance abuse education and addiction education."

Kelly said the money from the tournament was able to purchase 200 DVD’s of Derek speaking (about his story).

"We’ll be spreading those out to area high schools and colleges and junior high schools," said Kelly. "It’s a video of Derek speaking to youth before he passed away. He wanted people to know what happened to him and he wanted to keep anyone else to from having the same problem.”

Hatcher was amazed with this year’s turnout.

"For me, it’s kind of sad as you prepare for it," said Hatcher. "Then you get out here and see the smiling faces and you realize how many people loved Derek, how many friends he had.”

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