Utah's Hatfield wants to do it all: offense, defense, special teams

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 10:40 p.m. MDT

University of Utah wide receiver Dominique Hatfield catches the ball against defensive back Hipolito Corporan during the Red vs White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday, April 19, 2014 in Salt Lake City.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Versatile sophomore Dominique Hatfield shares a special bond with Utah cornerbacks coach Sharrieff Shah. They’re from the same neighborhood in Los Angeles, an area that Shah knows as a place where kids have a lot to overcome.

“He’s a tough kid and I know exactly what he went through,” said Shah, who noted obstacles like gangs, drug influences and individuals who don’t believe in you and try to write you off. “If a kid can make it out of there, he’s an absolute fighter.”

Hatfield, who is primed to be a multi-position standout for the Utes this season, acknowledged that it’s just rough.

“You know, you can get sucked into a lot of things. You have to keep your mind focused,” Hatfield said. “Getting to Utah was a very tough route. I’m not going to lie about it. I’m not the smartest kid in the world but I’m a hard worker. So that’s one thing I’m very good at.”

Football is another. At Crenshaw High School, Hatfield received numerous accolades as a star receiver and cornerback. It was there he caught the attention of the Utes.

“I’m going to work for anybody that’s working for me. Utah came to me and they told me to work and they said that they had my back,” Hatfield said. “So I had to get out of that place and I had to have a short memory because coming to a place like Utah is a complete turnaround, so my mind had to be different.”

While growing up in Los Angeles, Shah said Hatfield shared a special relationship with his mother. He explained that they had to build each other up at times to keep going and to keep fighting.

Hatfield knew he could make it out of the challenging environment. There was a great example recruiting him, a guy who found success in football and as an attorney.

“Coach Shah is one of the smartest dudes I know coming from that neighborhood and I just look up to him because he’s a really great dude,” he said.

And now, Shah also happens to be Hatfield’s newest position coach. A season-ending injury to Reggie Porter has prompted Utah coaches to move the 5-foot-10, 175-pounder to cornerback on occasion. Hatfield will also continue to be in the mix at wide receiver and serve as the gunner on punt coverage. Last season, he returned seven kickoffs.

“If you let him he’d be on everything,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “We’ve got to tone it down a little bit and give him a break every once in awhile. But you’re going to see a lot of Domo Hatfield on the field this year.”

Hatfield is a good weapon, Whittingham added, a very good weapon.

Offensive coordinator Dave Christensen agrees.

“He’s getting ready to play on both sides of the football. He’s an explosive playmaker,” Christensen said. “He’s an exceptional corner and we think he’s a big-time playmaker at wide receiver. He’s just splitting time doing both, and he’s very good at both.”

When Hatfield was recruited to Utah, Shah and Whittingham noted that his services were sought by both the offense and defense.

“I wanted him as a cornerback and the offense saw the same thing that I saw. They loved him as a receiver because he played both positions coming out of Crenshaw High School,” Shah said. “And I knew given some of his natural and innate ability — his feet, his hips, just his natural instincts — that he would be a great cornerback.”

And there’s more to it for Shah.

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