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Driving Force

Feb. 21, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

From a bus, with good friends along for the ride, Bo Hatchett on Tuesday tried to explain why he’s so attracted to swimming.

He was compelling. This was a story worth hearing.

Not every prolific high school quarterback goes on to swim collegiately at the Division I level, especially after first playing college football.

So there was Hatchett, aboard Georgia Tech’s charter to Virginia Tech, giving voice to his own road less traveled.

“I would say it’s about the competition, and the great thing about swimming compared to other sports is you get out of it what you put into it,” he said. “It’s about how hard you train and perfect your stroke. It’s a sport where hard work really does pay.”

Swimming is a sport where the hard work of Tech coach Courtney Shealy Hart is beginning to pay off.

The Yellow Jackets will dive into the men’s ACC Championships today and with the help of a ballyhooed freshman class, they’re poised to push the program’s history this year and especially next.

And, Hatchett said, they’re pushing each other.

“They’re all making fun of me now,” he said, trying to ignore obnoxious teammates as boredom worked its way into the equation just an hour into a seven-hour trek. “We’re swimming faster than last year, and years previous.

“The atmosphere is different, and it’s fun to be around. There’s just this competitive nature on the team and we all really want to do well.”

At Tech, Hatchett has found the atmosphere much to his liking, in part because he likens it to some of the atmosphere he so enjoyed while playing quarterback.

As a senior at Habersham Central High, he passed for some 2,900 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior in 2007, and was fairly recruited. Presbyterian would be his next stop, and after a redshirt in ’08 and a disappointing ’09, he went looking for something he found previous on the gridiron if not so much in college.

Up to that point, from age seven onward, swimming had been, eh, something pretty fun to do even if it didn’t bring the passion of football.

The second of six children growing up in Demorest, Ga., up I-985 a ways past Gainesville, he and his siblings all swam.

“Maybe it was because my dad was always in triathlons,” he said. “When I was growing up, I was on a team with very few people, and that’s why I chose football to begin with.”

After his second fall at Presbyterian, Hatchett took a semester off and in that time decided to merge two passions. He deigned to jump back in the water, and go full bore to be more like his father — a physician.

Now, he majors in biology with an eye ever cast to his future as he marks time as a backstroker and butterfly ace.

“I think I’ve always looked up to my dad, and wanted to do it. Going through high school and college just confirmed it,” Hatchett said. “I’d like to go into orthopedics or sports medicine, anything where I can be around athletes. To be a team doctor would be great.”

In a way, Hatchett’s still at home.

He grew up in a competitive household, where every young Hatchett (the oldest is 23, the youngest 13) took or takes the plunge as well.

Plus, his older sister, Collier, lives with him and five other Tech swimmers in a house near the Tech campus. “She runs the place,” he said. “And she works for the governor, too.”

The future can wait a bit longer.

After this semester, Hatchett will have about 28 hours left; he hopes to graduate in May 2013.

He has high aspirations not only for this week’s ACCs, but especially for next season.

“We have four seniors . . . we’re going to have a lot of talent back,” Hatchett said. “We really push each other. It’s very competitive.”

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