HATTON — It wasn’t until this past offseason that college coaches started to notice Hatton senior offensive lineman Gage Saint.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle didn’t attract much interest after his junior season. Saint then spent most of the spring attending offensive lineman camps in Alabama, Georgia and Illinois.
At one camp, the Elite Georgia Showcase, Saint turned heads by placing in the top five in the offensive lineman division with his performances in various drills.
Saint also performed well at the other four camps. He wasn’t a stranger to college coaches anymore.
“After that camp, it just sort of blossomed,” Saint said. “It was amazing. I didn’t really expect it. It’s been life-changing so far.”
South Alabama and Arkansas State were the first Division I schools to make offers. Chattanooga, Eastern Kentucky, Southern Miss, Western Kentucky, Jacksonville State, North Alabama and Troy soon followed.
Saint committed to Troy on June 25. He went from having no offers after a successful junior season to a Division I recruit in a matter of months. Saint is now believed to be the first Division I recruit from Hatton since 1988.
“I went to Troy and loved the family atmosphere,” Saint said. “They’ve beaten Power 5 schools over the years. The success is great.”
The interest in Saint from college coaches peaked because of his camp performances, but his size also helped. It wasn’t until his junior season that he had the height and weight needed to play Division I football.
He weighed 210 pounds his freshman and sophomore years. He then hit a growth spurt that bulked him up to 270 pounds.
“It made it easier playing on the line,” Saint said. “I actually got faster. It was better all around for me.”
He moved from guard to tackle his junior season and helped the Hornets go 6-4. Hatton only missed the playoffs because of a one-point loss to Sheffield.
That season was by far the most successful since coach Denton Bowling took over the program in 2016. It was also one of Hatton’s most successful in the last 10 years. Only a 7-4 finish in 2014 has it beat in terms of win totals.
Saint also is a symbol of Hatton’s dedication to turning its football program around under Bowling. Before Saint, there weren’t many Division I recruits to prove that working at football can create a path to college.
“Him being able to commit to a Division I program brings a little bit of credit to the program itself,” Bowling said. “He sold out in the weight room. I think he sets an example for the younger kids.”
Hatton operated out of a wing-T offense last year. That offense relies heavily on an option-style running game.
Saint’s strength is run blocking, and the Hornets used him to create holes for their ground game.
The Hornets are moving away from the wing-T this year in an attempt to open up their offense a little more. Still, experience on the offensive line will be key. Saint is joined by Mason McMillian, Isaiah Taylor and Aiden Smith as returning starters.
“We’re pretty good across the front,” Bowling said. “I’m pleased with that group. Gage sets the tone. Those guys next to him only get better by having to butt heads with him in practice.”
Saint has a spot on a Division I team with his name on it. Before he heads to college, he will help the Hornets make the next step after barely missing the playoffs last year.
“I wanted to commit so early, so I didn’t have to think about it during the season,” Saint said. “I wanted to focus on this team, my senior year and trying to make the playoffs.”