Former Laker Hatcher tabbed as running back coach

GVL / Archive
Michael Hatcher


GVL / Archive Michael Hatcher

A.A. Knorr

After wading through 100 applicants in search of the next running back coach, the Grand Valley State football program found its man. He’s a Laker, through and through.

Mike Hatcher, a GVSU alumnus and former Laker defensive back, was tabbed as GVSU’s new running back coach late last week. Hatcher replaces former coach Matt Yoches, who left to take a position as the director of football operations at Miami (Ohio).

“It’s definitely something that I always wanted to do,” Hatcher said of returning to coach at GVSU. “Not a lot of times a guy gets to play at a great university and coach at a great university… It holds a special place in my heart.”

Hatcher graduated from GVSU in 2013, and headed to Division III Wartburg College as a running back coach. Wartburg, an accomplished Division III program, steamrolled its way to a 9-1 record last season. Wartburg’s offense was effective both through the air and on the ground, as the team averaged 36.7 points per contest. The rushing attack picked up 2,072 yards and contributed 31 touchdowns on the season.

For GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell, Hatcher checked all the boxes.

“He wasn’t hired because he played football here, but that was something that definitely worked to his favor,” he said. “He knows this university, this athletic department, this football program and for me, he kind of checked a lot of boxes I was looking for.”

With its status as a perennial Division II powerhouse, GVSU is a coveted location for coaches looking to build resumes and work their way up the coaching ladder. Mitchell said getting 100 applications isn’t out of the ordinary when a position opens.

Though Hatcher was a defensive back for the Lakers, he’ll handle the running backs as a coach, just as he did at Wartburg.

“Coaching is coaching,” Hatcher said. “The biggest thing you have to be able to do is relate to people, No. 2 be able to teach people and No. 3 develop a relationship. I believe that everything else can be learned. Those three things, they aren’t naturally learned, it’s just something you kind of develop and something you have a feel for.”

GVSU has built a sort of coaching pipeline with Wartburg over the years. Laker offensive coordinator Tim Morrison both played and coached at Wartburg, quarterbacks coach Matt Vitzthum played there and co-defensive coordinator Jim Walsh was also a coach at Wartburg.

Hatcher was a four-year starter for GVSU during his career, was named the Lakers’ Rookie of the Year in his freshman season, and was named captain during his senior year. Over the course of his career, Hatcher racked up 111 tackles, 28 pass breakups and three interceptions in 42 games.

Returning to GVSU so soon after graduation for Hatcher is nothing short of a fanciful cliché.

“If I had to explain it in one word, it’s ‘phenomenal,'” Hatcher said. “It’s something I’m really grateful about and something I can’t thank the people at Wartburg and the people (at GVSU) enough to consider me for a position. It’s something I think I’ve earned, I’ve worked my butt off.”

The Lakers finished 12-3 in the 2015 season, and advanced to the NCAA Division II semifinals before falling to Shepherd, 34-32. GVSU will open its 2016 season with a home game against Tiffin on Sept. 1.