Ex-Langston Star Hatchette still hungry for more

Friday, August 4th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) -- Matthew Hatchette's climb is almost complete. Just four years removed from Langston University, Hatchette is the Minnesota Vikings' new third receiver and is primed to become an integral part of Dennis Green's potent offense.

He's gone from roster long-shot as a rookie to special teams player to fourth receiver and finally to Jake Reed's replacement as the team's No. 3 wideout.

Hatchette gets to learn from one of the top tandems in NFL history, Randy Moss and Cris Carter. Yet, Hatchette isn't really a happy camper. "I'm not exactly where I want to be yet," Hatchette said after working up a sweat at his fourth training camp. "My goal isn't to be a third receiver. My goal is to be a starter, to be a No. 1 guy, the go-to guy."

Hatchette realizes, however, that his apprenticeship isn't finished. "Very few people get to learn from Hall of Famers in front of them," said Hatchette, whose emergence helped push Reed out the door at Winter Park and into New Orleans as a free agent.

Offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis said Hatchette has learned a lot watching Moss and Carter. "He's in a unique situation and he's very fortunate to have a couple of guys like that around who he can learn from -- because his day will come where he will be a starter," Lewis said.

Carter, a perennial Pro Bowl player, and Moss, who could earn a$2.5 million bonus if he makes the Pro Bowl in a crowded NFC field, stand to get the bulk of rookie Daunte Culpepper's passes this season. And running back Robert Smith will be a nice dump-off target, too. But Hatchette knows Moss will draw double-teams on one side and Carter will get extra attention on the other, leaving him in single coverage. "Matthew's very talented," Lewis said. "He's a big target and he's got good speed. He's got nice, soft hands and can make the difficult catch."

Lewis said Hatchette is primed for NFL stardom. "No question, he's got all the tools," Lewis said. "It's just a matter of opportunity for him."

Hatchette can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, but the Vikings want to re-sign him and re-do Moss's modest deal, making them the next dynamic duo in the likely event that Carter calls it a career after 2000.

Already, Hatchette has outdone Carter and Moss in one way: his 80-yard touchdown catch from Jeff George last year was the sixth-longest in the Vikings' 40-year history and longer than any of Moss's 33 touchdown receptions or Carter's 102 in Minnesota.

Still, Hatchette is all ears when it comes to veterans. "Last year, I tried to take something from each receiver," he said. "In Jake, I tried to take his power moves and his approach to the game. Cris, I try to take his craftiness and the way he runs his routes. Randy, I try to take his mental approach where nobody out there can stop me. I just try to take what they do best and put that in my repertoire of things," Hatchette said. "I always want to be better."

That's why he's not satisfied just being the third receiver.