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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 17, 2004

Hackney fit right in with UAB's offense

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

The first time wide receiver Roddy White glimpsed Darrell Hackney's oak tree-like 6-foot-2, 235-pound frame during fall camp calisthenics, White said, "I thought he was a linebacker."

It would not be the first, nor the last time somebody saw Hackney as something other than what he is, the University of Alabama at Birmingham's eye-opening quarterback.

Hackney, who led UAB into the school's first bowl berth, a Dec. 24 appearance against Hawai'i in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, draws Daunte Culpepper comparisons for his size and arm.

"If you see him in just a T-shirt working out, he looks like he could be playing another position," quarterbacks coach Pat Sullivan said. "He doesn't look heavy, he's a big, thick guy who spends a lot of time in the weight room."

So much so that along the way, from youth league football on, he's had to prove his passing prowess before people would consider him as what he's always wanted to be: a quarterback.

"In (youth league football) they wanted to put me at fullback or on the line," Hackney said. "But I wanted to play quarterback, just like my older brother. When they saw I could throw (the ball) about 60 yards they let me play quarterback."

White said: "He's got a rocket for an arm. We call him the 'satellite' because he can throw the ball to the moon." UAB officials said they've seen him fling it 80 yards.

Still, when recruiters came to his native Atlanta, not all were able to envision Hackney as a quarterback. "Georgia wanted me to play defense. So, did Tennessee," Hackney said.

But UAB, Marshall and a handful of others knew different. "You could tell he was a very talented player," Sullivan said. "It never even entered our minds that he would be anything else (but a quarterback)," head coach Watson Brown said.

Brown said the biggest disappointment of Hackney's high school career, a knee injury suffered in the first round of the Georgia state playoffs, actually turned out to be a blessing for the Blazers. "We might not have gotten him if he hadn't gotten hurt because he was going to be very highly recruited as a senior."

And, apart from his statistics this season — 24 touchdowns passes, seven interceptions and 2,653 yards passing — the Blazers got a leader.

Said Sullivan: "There's no question, he's the leader of our football team. We wouldn't be where we are without him."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.