February 7, 2013

Dalton High's Hardaway bound for Georgetown

There are plenty of stories to tell about Dalton High School football player Robert Hardaway.

It might be about the lone B the senior has made in high school, the bow tie company he helped start with friends or his memorable touchdown run against Southeast Whitfield this past fall.

In four years, he hopes to have another scrapbook full of memories from Georgetown University.

Hardaway signed a letter of intent on Wednesday, national signing day, and will attend the country’s oldest Jesuit and Catholic college, which is in the nation’s capital. He will play football for the Hoyas, who compete in the NCAA’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision as a member of the Patriot League.

Georgetown does not grant athletic scholarships for football, but does offer need-based financial aid, for which Hardaway said he is eligible.

Hardaway made the decision to attend Georgetown the weekend of Jan. 11-13, when he visited the school and “committed on the spot” after enjoying his trip. The Hoyas finished 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the Patriot League last year.

Hardaway said his decision came down to George-town and Ivy League schools Cornell and Harvard. He said he has a high school grade-point average around 3.85, with only a B in math during his freshman year keeping him from a perfect grade point average.

“Robert is authentic,” Dalton coach Matt Land said. “He’s real. He’s top five in our class for students. He lives it out, and in a world full of fakes and synthetic products, he’s the real deal.”

A three-year starter who played several positions on offense and defense for the Catamounts, he scored his first touchdown as a sophomore against Allatoona. It’s the first story he recalls when talking about his high school years.

“We blocked a punt and I recovered it and ran it in,” Hardaway said. “I was young and wasn’t real sure what to do. You could see my celebration — there wasn’t really one.”

The ones he and others do remember make up his own memories — some of which were represented in a scrapbook sitting on a table during his signing party at the school.

“It does sort of go in chapters,” Hardaway said. “Freshman year is its own story in itself — you’re young, stupid and you don’t know what is going on. Sophomore year you start working into it but you’re still young and kind of get beat around. You’re still new to the whole sport and being involved. Junior year, that’s really when I started realizing my potential and what I could be as a player on and off the field as far as influencing others go.

“Then senior year, of course, you’re the man, the leader. Everyone looks up to you.”

Hardaway, Dalton quarterback Cole Calfee, Morris Innovative student Sam Wilson and Christian Heritage student Cole Townsend all formed “Bowtie Brand” — an online business selling bow ties, shirts and hats — the summer prior to their junior years. It sprang out of a friendship between Hardaway and Calfee that formed in kindergarten.

“He’s always been incredibly passionate about playing,” Calfee said. “The first time we ever played together was first grade in flag football.”

This past season, Dalton trailed Southeast 10-7 in the fourth quarter. Lined up at fullback, Hardaway took a handoff up the middle and broke six tackles — trucking past one Raiders defender and dragging another — before scoring the game-winning 35-yard touchdown. Since that night, a video of the run has been posted on YouTube, where it has around 900 views.

“I feel kind of weird watching myself,” Hardaway said, “but I do like to see how many people have watched it. ... I’ve run that play 15 times in other games and gotten maybe 3 yards. It was just one time that it hit right. The blocking was perfect and the holes opened up.”

Said Land, “Let me put it this way: I’ve sent it out a lot.”

He initially played linebacker for the Cats but switched to defensive end his junior season. As a senior, he stayed there, finishing the 2012 season with 142 tackles, seven sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. At fullback, he took over the starter’s role midway through the season and finished with 253 yards on 39 carries with three touchdowns. He also was a primary lead blocker for 1,000-yard running back Kelvis Rhodes.

The Cats finished 8-4, with the victories including their first state playoffs triumph since 2005. The 17-14 victory against Carver-Atlanta in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs was also their first postseason road win since 1992.

Within all of this is a player whom Land said helped further Dalton’s football tradition and now will try to do the same for Georgetown.

“When you watch the film, I don’t care if you watch play No. 1 or play No. 60, he’s playing just as hard,” said Land, who expects two or three more Dalton players to sign with schools in the next couple weeks. “I think that’s what made him so good and so enviable for recruiters is the fact that as his skill and talent gets better, his effort is already at the top of the charts.”


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