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Last year, during the ESPY’s I wrote that ESPN should get out of trying to be comedic and stick to stories of motivation, inspiration and perseverance.  Yesterday on the SVP and Russillo show, Van Pelt told the story of Austin Hatch, one of the more inspirational and motivational stories I’ve heard in a long time.

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Austin Hatch was, a few years ago, considered one of the top college basketball recruits in the nation.  Projected to be a top 50 recruit, Hatch committed to the University of Michigan after his sophomore year of high school.  Playing for the Wolverines had been Hatch’s goal since he was in his first plane crash.  That’s right I said first.  In 2003 Hatch was in a plane crash that killed his mother and 2 siblings.  Then, in 2011, just after announcing his intention to go to Michigan, the unthinkable happened.  Hatch was in a second plane crash, this one taking the life of his father and stepmother as well as leaving him in a coma.

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Since 2011 Hatch has fought the hard road to recovery.  The 6’6″ wingman from Indiana survived an 8 week coma, traumatic brain injuries, a broken collar bone, and a punctured lung to make it to National Signing Day last week.  While he has yet to play a competitive game since the second crash, Head Basketball Coach John Beilien and the University of Michigan honored their scholarship offer to the young Hatch.

In a day where players aren’t even staying at college long enough to sign a lease on an apartment, Michigan is welcoming a kid that may never play a game into their family.  A kid, may I remind you, that has really no family left.  We may all take for granted what our college families meant to us, but for Hatch I can’t stress how amazing an opportunity it will be for him to have a spot on that team and a place on that campus.

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When I was 7 my father died and so disappeared his entire family, at 12 I kicked out my step father, and from that point on my family dwindled down to my mom’s parents, my little brother and a chaotic relationship with my mother.  And while I am so thankful that I had that family in my life (they are amazing people), it was my family at college that gave me the strength to power through life.  A walk on spot on the wrestling team at Lehigh, and a group of about 10 friends that would break down walls for me reminded me what loyalty and support was really like.  When people today ask me how I dealt with so much and came out so well, my response is always the same – “I hardly dealt with anything, there are people out there that go through real tragedy.”  Hatch is one of those people, and knowing they are out there motivates me to work harder.

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With the holiday season about 1 week from starting, it is amazing to see the story of a kid persevering through real tragedy to achieve their goals.  Hatch, by all accounts, has been busting his ass to earn his spot on the Michigan in 2014.  In fact he doesn’t act as though he’s been through tragedy, he professes instead that he has been blessed.  Blessed to still be alive.  Blessed to have a chance to still see his goals through.  Tragedy isn’t an excuse to fail, it’s an opportunity to find new motivation.

Hatch will walk on campus in 2014, and even though as a sports fan I hate the Wolverines, I’ll be rooting for the Maize and Blue.

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