Leland Taylor. Tony Driver. Bernard Jackson. Jordan Whiting. Montrell Jones. Those are all former Louisville high school football stars who left home to chase their college football dreams.
You can now add Jason Hatcher's name to that list.
Hatcher, a four-star defensive end from Trinity, narrowed his list to Louisville, USC and Tennessee, before announcing his commitment to the Trojans during a press conference Friday evening at the downtown Hyatt.
"There are a few reasons I chose USC," said Hatcher. "First off, I had a great experience in Los Angeles when I visited in June. That was my first time I had stayed in Los Angeles for a long period of time. I knew I liked USC a lot already at that point.
"Then the experience of being at The Opening in Oregon, just being around the SC guys and the guys talking about signing with USC, did it for me."
Keeping top local talent home for college has always been challenging for Louisville, a program on the rise that lacks the tradition of national powers like USC. For every Brian Brohm that has stayed home to play for the hometown Cardinals, there's been a Tony Driver who went to Notre Dame. For every Michael Bush, a Bernard Jackson. Despite UofL's recent successes, namely the 2006 Orange Bowl win, and facilities upgrades, some local stars still seek perceived greener pastures at football factories around the country.
In this most recent case, the 6-3, 240 pound Hatcher simply couldn't turn down an offer from national power USC, a program that has won 11 national titles and produced seven Heisman Trophy winners during its storied history. With scholarships running out at USC, Hatcher, who visited UofL twice last month, decided to act quickly and reserve his spot on Lane Kiffins talent-laden roster.
"I want to win a National Championship," said Hatcher. "But really the most important things is to get a good degree. I don't want to get a lame degree that won't do me any good after I graduate. So, after that, it's football. I didn't want go to a school where I'm going to get beat every Saturday. I also want to go to a school where I feel comfortable. And it's impossible not to feel comfortable at USC."
Interestingly, several of those local stars who left the city of Louisville for college eventually found their way back home. Taylor, a star at Fairdale in the early 1990's, signed with Tennessee before transferring to Louisville for his final two seasons. Jones, one of the state's all-time great receivers, also found his way to UofL after playing two seasons for the Volunteers. Whiting, a former star linebacker at Trinity, will sit out this season at UofL after transferring from Ohio State.
Will Hatcher have a similar change of heart, possibly before he signs a binding letter of intent with USC next February? Louisville fans can only hope.