Jason Hatcher, the standout defender from Grambling’s 2005 undefeated league championship team, ended a brief holdout on Wednesday when he agreed to a new deal with Dallas.
Waiting when he got back to the Cowboys practices was running back Frank Warren, who signed a free-agent agreement as Hatcher’s contract negotiations continued. Warren, a record-smashing running back at Grambling over the last four seasons, had spent months awaiting for end of the NFL lockout to find out which NFL club would sign him.
“It was nerve wracking,” Warren told me, “when you don’t know where your going. I just stayed positive — and now I thank God for the opportunity.”
Warren, an Alabama native, spent the down time working out with a trainer, making sure he’d be ready. When the call came, it was from an unexpected source: Warren said Dallas scouts hadn’t seen him a pro day.
“It came out of the blue, and that kind of caught me off guard,” Warren said. “It was a shock but, hey, it’s my time now. The scouts told me that they’d seen me during the season — and I put up some pretty big numbers.”
Did he ever: Warren, a starter at Grambling from 2007-10, was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s 2010 offensive player of the year after becoming the program’s all-time career rushing leader. He led the SWAC and was third in the NCAA in rushing with 1,592 yards. He also averaged 10.4 points per game, which was fifth in the FCS.
Warren finishes his college career ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famer Walter Payton, having rushed to second all-time in the conference with 3,910 yards. He helped Grambling to a pair of SWAC Championship Games, winning in 2008.
Meanwhile, Hatcher was a 2005 first-team all-conference honoree after making 71 tackles (49 solo) with 21½ tackles for loss and 11 sacks as the Tigers claimed a conference title. He also had one forced fumble, 16 quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a blocked kick. Season highlights included eight-tackle performances against both Jackson State and Southern.
He then became the highest drafted Grambling product in decades when Dallas selected him late in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, as the No. 92 overall pick. An All-State tight end at Jena (La.) High, Hatcher flourished despite the belated start on defense at Grambling. Hatcher tallied 33 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and five sacks in his first year on defense as a junior.
Hatcher made 13 tackles and a sack over 13 games as a key reserve defensive lineman with Dallas last season. Over the last five years, the Louisiana native has 85 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks in 75 games.
Receiver Jake Reed had been Grambling’s most recent first-day pick, going in the third round of the 1991 draft.