The state of Michigan kicked off the high school football season in style, with seven games between a variety of in-state powers meeting at the Big House.
It was a memorable opportunity for all involved, but maybe more so for St. Joseph defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher, who got the rare opportunity to play a high school game in his future college stadium.
While Malone-Hatcher says he was looking forward to the event all summer, the actual experience exceeded expectations.
“I know it was something I’ll hold close with my friends and family for a long time,” he said. “It was truly a blessing to be able to share that opportunity with the guys I’ve grown up with and played with my whole life. I know it will be a lot different when there are 110,000 people in the stadium when I’m at Michigan, but this was something not many get to do and the game will always have a special place in my heart.”
After suffering a season-ending ankle injury last year, Malone-Hatcher worked hard to rehabilitate himself during the winter, spring and summer. He’s almost back to 100% strength-wise, but is fully healthy overall and says he felt better than he has in a long time during his team’s 26-0 victory over Kalamazoo Central.
“I got off of the ball all day and was mostly able to take the edge at will,” he said of his pass-rushing abilities. “Even being around 85% (strength), I was able to get four sacks and five more tackles for a loss, which is production that I’m personally happy with. It gave me more confidence to keep working knowing I can be even more effective when I get to 100%, which should be very soon.”
Michigan’s Don Brown likes Malone-Hatcher as a potential linebacker/defensive end hybrid in his system because of his rare combination of size and athleticism. This season, Malone-Hatcher has been moved to inside linebacker to help give his team a better opportunity to win. He says that shift will help him prepare for his days at Michigan.
“It gives me a better feel on the mental aspect of the game,” he said of the switch. “I feel like it’s really going to pay off for both myself and my team this year. It was a bit of a scary transition because of the change in responsibilities, but I’ve learned a lot more about the mental aspect of the game. I have learned how to recognize what the opposing offense is doing and how to defend it. For the first time, I really feel like a true hybrid player.”
Malone-Hatcher, who committed to the Wolverines on June 2, will be back in Ann Arbor on Saturday to watch the Wolverines open up their season against Hawaii.