STATESBORO — Being a place kicker, it’s imperative to be loose and have a clear mind.
That’s one of the several reasons former South Effingham standout Patrick Bolen is excited about playing for new coach Chris Hatcher this year at Georgia Southern.
“I feel a lot more loose this year than last year,” he said. “Coach Hatcher is a good guy, he’s real open and you can talk to him about anything.”
Bolen described the atmosphere last year under Brian VanGorder as tense and cold.
“With coach last year, you couldn’t go in there and talk to him,” Bolen said. “When you went into the locker room and the meetings you felt like you couldn’t talk to him, but with this coaching staff, you can talk with them and we get along with them good and it’s going to help us in the long run.”
Hatcher, who coached at Valdosta State the past seven years, isn’t just a nice guy but also a successful coach.
With the Blazers, he went 76-12 and won the NCAA Division II championship in 2004.
“If you need anything, he said come talk to him,” Bolen said. “He will be there for you, not only in football but in your personal life.”
Bolen said it’s that openness and caring attitude that makes the players give that extra effort.
“You push a lot harder for someone like that,” he said. “Coach Hatcher is going to help you out in whatever he can, so in return you help him out by busting your butt a little harder.”
Attitude and a new spread offense aren’t the only changes Bolen likes. He’s also pumped about the traditions being brought back to Georgia Southern from saluting Eagle Creek before practice, wearing the gray face masks and especially riding in the yellow buses.
“It’s great riding on the little yellow buses,” Bolen said. “Last year we got down here (Bishop Field House) two to three hours before the game and it wasn’t the same. But bringing back the buses and the gray mask is big. Tradition is all about what Georgia Southern is, and I’m glad to have it back.”
While the traditions pump up the players, Bolen said they still have to play the game.
“It helps us and it’s part of the game in some aspect, but we have to go out there and play,” he said. “But knowing everything is coming back the way Erk Russell had it is awesome.”
Bolen, his coaches and his teammates got to spend some quality time with the Eagle fans Saturday at Meet the Eagles day and the Little Eagles camp.
According to Athletics Marketing Director Brent Jones more than 2,000 schedule posters were handed out during Meet the Eagles as fans made their way around to different tables where the players and coaches sat to sign autographs.
“I thought we had a really good turnout today. We handed out more than 2,000 posters and nearly that many schedule cards as well,” said Jones. “I think everyone really enjoyed meeting the players and coaches today, and hopefully all that excitement surrounding our program will translate into a packed Paulson Stadium on Sept. 8.”
Bolen said he enjoyed the day.
“It was fun. Coach Hatcher said this is a good way for the kids and parents to come out and show that we care,” he said. “We’re not just football players, but we’re role models for the younger kids. Even though it’s Saturday, taking a couple of hours out of my day to do this is awesome. It’s great to know the kids are happy, the players are happy and the coaches are happy.”