By TREY WILLIAMS
David Crockett football players Donta Hackler and Blaine Greer could make a sudden impact in college.
Hackler, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver, is returning to his native Greeneville to play for Tusculum University. Greer, a 6-foot-7, 315-pound lineman, signed with Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky.
Hackler tallied 149 receptions for 2,486 yards and scored 31 touchdowns while playing for coach Hayden Chandley the past two seasons. The Pioneers went 19-5 during that span – the most successful two-year stint in the program’s 49-year history – and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time in 2018.
A lot of that success was due to the fact that Hackler moved to Jonesborough from Greeneville in the fourth grade. Now, he’s headed back.
“I wanted to stay close and I have family down there,” Hackler said. “So that helped a lot. Tusculum’s a great opportunity.”
Hackler attended Frankie DeBusk camps while in elementary school. He’ll be playing for DeBusk’s successor, Jerry Odom, who will be entering his fifth season.
“I got a great feel for him and all the coaches,” Hackler said. “They all have a lot of energy and they just got a new offensive coordinator that won the national championship last year. … They said if I’m willing to come in and work and earn the starting job, they said there’s no question I could start. So that’s what I’m looking forward to – starting.”
Hackler generated a great deal of Division I interest and might continue to even while at Tusculum. But he’s comfortable at home in Division II.
“Tyreek Hill is from D-II – the middle of nowhere – and look what he’s doing,” Hackler said. “I mean he’s fastest guy in the NFL.”
Tusculum alum Ricardo Colclough played four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-07).
Chandley said Hackler has the tools to be an All-South Atlantic Conference player.
“If Donta goes up there and works hard in the classroom as well as the weight room and the practice field and things like that, Donta has every opportunity to go up there and be extremely successful,” Chandley said. “We’re excited for him. He’s staying close to home. So it’ll give some Jonesborough people an opportunity to go watch him play. We’re excited for Donta to be moving on and remaining a Pioneer, and we’re looking forward to seeing him grow as an individual and a football player.”
Chandley has watched Greer grow as a football player the past two years. Greer didn’t play football his freshman or sophomore seasons. That changed with the arrival of Chandley, who’d been Greer’s baseball coach in middle school.
“He coached me in baseball my eighth-grade year,” Greer said. “So that was one of the deciding factors of me playing football my junior year. … He came to me and he told me, ‘Blaine, whether you like it or not, you’re gonna play for me.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see ya out there.’”
Greer, who noted the loving support of his parents Eric and Tina, considered going to East Tennessee State and Emory & Henry.
“ETSU wanted me as a preferred walk-on,” Greer said. “And, in my opinion, I felt like at Union I had a better chance, a better deal to go in, get a good education and play football at the same time. … It’s great. I’ve worked my butt off for two years since whenever I started playing my junior year, and I can see now that it’s all paid off.”
Greer, who was appreciative of Crockett assistant Kevin Ramsey’s assistance in the recruitment process, said the Union coaches expect him to play offensive tackle.
“They told me, ‘Right now you can come in and compete for a position on the team,’” said Greer, who felt right at home on campus and in Barbourville. “I love the atmosphere there. It’s kind of like Crockett. It’s a small town, kind of old looking and gives you that (similar) setting.”
It was especially gratifying for Chandley to see Greer parlay football into a college education.
“Blaine came to us for two years,” Chandley said. “He was extremely raw, and got a good package up at Union. He had an opportunity, actually, to walk on at ETSU and stay close to home. But he wanted to go up to Union and give himself an opportunity to start and play right away. That was a big deciding factor for him.
“He got a pretty good package from those guys and felt liked and welcomed up there, and he’s excited to go up there. I look for, hopefully, a good offensive line coach up there to get ahold of him and mold him for a year or two, and I think we could see some big things out of Blaine here in a couple of years.”
Greer and Hackler each noted routing Science Hill, 62-34, in 2019 and defeating Daniel Boone in 2018 – in that order – as their top memories from Crockett’s unprecedented two-year stretch of success.
“Throughout my whole entire life I’ve always had, like, a bad feeling about Science Hill,” Greer said. “I never really liked ‘em that much. And getting to play them this year and beating ‘em (convincingly) – it was the best feeling in the world. …
“We did really well (against Boone) our junior year. All of our seniors had the mentality that they were not losing against Boone, like Mark (Seidler) and Micah (Robinson) and Jon (Kollie) and all of them. They made everybody else know that we were about to win this game. We just had a lot of energy. We came in to this Boone game after the Tennessee High loss (last season) and I guess we just slowed down, didn’t have enough fire in us.”
Hackler had eight catches for 70 yards, including a fourth-and-11 conversion reception, on the Pioneers’ opening scoring drive in the surreal rout of Science Hill, which was the Pioneers’ first in the series.
“Beating Science Hill – that was a great memory,” Hackler said. “And the second one was beating Daniel Boone last year (in 2018). It was amazing, you know, just holding the Musket.”
This year’s senior class at Crockett had three head coaches and two interim head coaches. But having teammates such as Jon and Prince Kollie, Seidler, Robinson and quarterback Cade Larkins made it well worth it.
“It was fun playing with those guys since moving up here in the fourth grade,” Hackler said, “and meeting all those guys and, you know, going through a lot – like a lot – that I wouldn’t have imagined (having) to go through. And to win games with them and work hard during the summer – on and off the field working hard with each other and just trying to find the best way to win – I’ll never forget that.”