Thursday, March 13, 2014
EDGEFIELD — Participants in the “ON” the Courts versus “IN” the Courts Basketball Game received a special message, as future NFL player Matt Hazel came to speak with the group.
Hazel, a former North Augusta and Coastal Carolina football star, spoke to the players at the J.E.T. Middle School Gymnasium in Edgefield, about hard work and achieving goals.
“Just really that if you know you want to do something, take the right steps to do it; keeping God first and working hard,” Hazel said of his message. “There are a lot of things you have to sacrifice and (you have to have) discipline. If you really want to do what you want to do, it’s going to take a lot, really, and there are going to be some stressful times. As long as you know God and understand what he has planned for you, everything will work for itself.”
The crowd of mostly middle school students heard some of Hazel’s story on sports, academics and how he made his way to college.
“Hopefully they took something away from it,” he said. “If I didn’t believe in them, I wouldn’t have come here. Hopefully I touched somebody’s life here, and they grasped it and take heed of it. I’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot on my journey, so hopefully they can get something out of it. I know God had a plan for me, and I know he wanted me to use my gift as a testimony to somebody else. Just seeing the guys, having been this age at one point, I really didn’t have nobody to talk to at that point and didn’t understand what I wanted to do or what it took. So, just giving back to them is just a blessing.”
Marcella Edwards, CEO of Edgefield County Youth Empowerment Center, said having Hazel speak to the students was “a great experience.”
“When we thought of bringing Matt in, I thought about whenever the Army goes to war they always get somebody influential to come and speak to the troops when it’s time to go to battle,” she said. “Our kids are battling a lot of things, and are at war with a lot of things. So, to bring Matt in, to have that influence on their lives, I think it’s great. We’re excited, they were excited and to motivate and instill in them that no matter where you start, what matters is where you end up. It doesn’t matter if you come from a small beginning, because you can have a great end.”
Edwards hopes to bring Hazel back to speak in Edgefield in the future, once he has established himself in the NFL.
“Him being a local guy was very helpful, because a lot of kids were familiar with Matt,” she said. “So, they see this guy that grew up with us and he’s moving on to bigger things, to have interaction with him is great for the kids. We’re looking for Matt to come back, once he’s in the NFL, and to bring some other players back to our kids in Edgefield County.”
Along with giving back, Hazel is still training for the NFL draft. He recently wrapped up a strong showing in the NFL combine, and is preparing for his pro day at Coastal Carolina in late March.
“I’m down here training, I’m going back to Coastal (Carolina) for my pro day (on March 27), then individual workouts with a couple of teams,” he said. “I’m going to be flying from place to place, meeting with different teams, then get ready for the (NFL) draft.”
The former Jacket called the NFL combine a “blessing” to participate in.
“It was a great experience, really, one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I’ve seen it on TV, but being a part of it was huge. Just getting that experience and showcasing my ability to NFL teams was a humbling experience.”
Hazel will participate in the Coastal Carolina pro day on March 27 in Conway. The NFL draft will take place from May 8-10 in New York City.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.