ODU long snapper, a team captain, has been perfect at anonymous task: ‘My job’s not to get noticed.’

·5 min read

Broughton Royce Hatcher was a rather anonymous left tackle on a team in a South Carolina town so small that it appears to have more churches than restaurants.

Heading into his sophomore season at Central High, Hatcher had a conversation that changed the course of his life.

“If you want to do this,” said regional long snapping coach Anthony Giugliano, “I can make you good at it.”

Hatcher’s response: “Sounds good to me.”

Thus, in a fashion that epitomizes Hatcher’s straightforward demeanor, began a career that has given Old Dominion coaches and fans one less thing to worry about.

Hatcher, the Monarchs’ junior long snapper, has been perfect throughout his career. Not once has he botched a punt, a field goal or a PAT snap.

Like a competent umpire or a security camera, it’s hard to tell he’s even there.

“My job’s not to get noticed,” Hatcher said. “That’s kind of how I look at it.”

But his play and his leadership skills have betrayed his anonymity as ODU prepares to take on Arkansas State in Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference opener. Before the season, Hatcher was voted one of four team captains, a fact that speaks to how highly he and his job are regarded.

“It says that people respect him,” coach Ricky Rahne said. “It also shows the respect that our team has for special teams, right? They know the importance of special teams. They know what it means.”

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Hatcher, who goes by “B.R.,” shares the captaincy with tight end Zack Kuntz, safety R’Tarriun Johnson and offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri.

Quarterback Hayden Wolff, one of Hatcher’s three roommates, was not surprised to see a player from perhaps the team’s least glamorous position elevated to a key role.

“I’m around him day in and day out. I see the stuff that he does,” Wolff said. “He’s a great person. He’s a leader in the community. He’s a leader on the team. So I’m really happy for him. I’m excited about the opportunity for him to keep growing as a leader.”

A flawless season didn’t take much effort for Hatcher in 2021. In the Monarchs’ season-opening loss at Wake Forest, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury that left him rehabbing and watching.

By the end of spring camp, his torn ligaments had healed, and he was back at 100%. But the injury prompted him to make an impassioned point to his teammates at a practice early in summer camp, before he was named a captain.

“This is a blessing to be out here,” he told them. “It’s an opportunity to come get better, and it’s a privilege to play this great game.”

ODU was one of the first programs to notice the potential value of Hatcher, who, under Giugliano’s watch at Kohl’s Professional Camps, honed football’s oddest skill.

Kohl’s trains kickers, punters and long snappers. It boasts graduates on every FBS roster, as well as several NFL teams. Hatcher considers Giugliano “a great mentor.”

It’s doubtful, though, that the regimen at Kohl’s includes the way Hatcher trained during the COVID shutdown, which cost the Monarchs the 2020 season. While working at a produce market back home, Hatcher and a friend hiked watermelons to each other.

Hatcher laughs it off.

“That was just me and my buddy being bored at work,” he said.

A native of Jefferson, South Carolina (population 753), Hatcher speaks with a friendly, disarming drawl. He’s described himself as a “redneck,” but don’t mistake him for some clueless rube; he’s on a football scholarship as he studies physical science.

Hatcher and Wolff share an apartment with punter Ethan Duane and kicker Dominik Soos. Duane is Australian, Soos a native of Hungary.

The hodgepodge might seem odd, but it works.

“We talk a good amount off the field, just about personal things,” Soos said of Hatcher. “He’s always there to lean on. He’s a really good leader.”

He’s also one of their own. Duane, who had never played in an American football game before last season’s trip to Wake Forest, downplayed the notion that the tight-knit group responsible for the kicking game is any different from the rest of the players.

“It’s nice to see a specialist up there,” Duane said. “But at the end of the day with how this team works, I don’t consider any of us specialists. I consider us all more athletes. The way our team views us and the way we integrate with them, it’s hard to tell who’s a kicker, who’s a long snapper. It makes me very proud to see someone who’s from our little group up there recognized by the whole team.”

That recognition is not lost on Rahne, who regularly stresses the need for improvement on special teams.

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes bent over at the waist to throw a ball between his legs with both velocity and precision.

“They know how hard he works and how serious he takes his job,” Rahne said. “They also know what a good person he is, and I think it says a lot about him as a person and as a team member.”

All praise aside, Hatcher plans to stay averse to bad snaps.

“None on the books so far,” he said. “So we’re going to try to keep that one going.”

David Hall, david.hall@pilotonline.com