Former Cove Bulldawg plays in Europe for Hungarian football team
By ONDRAY WOODS
The usual path to a pro football career culminated with the National Football League, and for those players who could not find their way to the league, they would move on to plan B.
Passionate players like Billy Hatten - formerly of Copperas Cove, uncover a new option for that next level play. Hatten is a former Copperas Cove Bulldawg who graduated in 2013.
There are several countries around the world that have an “American Football League”. They play American football within their respective countries.
Hatten was drafted into a Brazilian league as an import player, a term used to indicate players drafted from America. That was four years ago and now he plays in Hungary.
Hatten is a lineman for the Szombathely Crushers, where he is regarded as one of the top players. He wears the number 52 on his jersey – the same number he wore when he played for the Bulldawgs.
In 2019, he was awarded the Championship MVP and league sack leader as he helped lead the Crushers to an undefeated championship season.
Believing that the game is controlled by the lineman he takes pride in being a playmaker for his team. Even with the steep drop in organization and structure compared to the NFL, the in-game action can still be intense.
The competitive factor of the game gets more intense as they get more comfortable with the nuances of the game. To most of these countries the idea of having their own football team is new and exciting.
Not just anyone can play in these leagues. Each team has a cap on the number of import players, and coaches, they can have on each team. For that reason tryouts for these teams are competitive. If the team likes you they will bring on board. If you do not perform, they send you home even if it is midseason, so the stakes are high.
With only faint thoughts of returning to the United States for a try at the NFL, Hatten looks to engrain himself in the football culture of the countries for which he plays.
Not only is he a player, he takes on many coaching responsibilities on certain AFL teams. From position coach to defensive coordinator his knowledge has an immediate impact. With a shorter season and games played every other week, he also has the chance to coach youth teams.
He speaks about teaching the game to children, and some adults, who are experiencing football for the first time. No doubt he is becoming an integral part of the American Football League.
Shorter seasonal play also allows Hatten to participate in many humanitarian efforts.
He said, “It’s not just football when I am over there.” He spoke on leading relief projects for Ukrainian refugees. He says he likes to be there on the front line helping out.
Because Hungary has open borders, he is able to help refugees find housing and food. He also enjoys using his influence to provide fun distractions to the kids going through these tough times.
With a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and environmental science, Hatten he worked as an environmental scientist in Dallas prior to being drafted.
His plan is to play football “...until my body cannot take it anymore,” he said, and then he plans to exchange the football field for the field of science.