When he decided to make the switch from the junior college ranks to NCAA Division II and Fort Hays State University, the Tiger football team’s coaching staff knew exactly what they were getting in Harley Hazlett.
It’s a big reason why the Tigers wanted the Abilene High School product right after his senior year with the Cowboys, a 2015 season that produced a third all-state selection and chance to play in the Kansas Shrine Bowl.
Though it’s one year later, the Tigers are just as excited to have him — and the sophomore transfer from Garden City Community College is making the most of the opportunity.
So far, he has caught passes, blocked well down field, and has run in two touchdowns with nine carries out of the wildcat formation. He gives the FHSU offense a dimension it has yet to see under seventh-year head coach Chris Brown.
“He’s just a tremendous athlete and can do so many different things for you offensively,” Brown said of Hazlett, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound former high school QB. “As a defense, you have to prepare.”
The Tigers have used the wildcat formation on numerous occasions in their 4-0 start, especially in short-yardage situations on third and fourth down and near the goal line. Hazlett’s a big reason why FHSU has converted on nearly half of its third (27 of 56) and fourth downs.
Hazlett, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass a season ago for Garden City CC in the NJCAA national title game, has been used sparingly in a deep wide receiver unit, but it’s not because of a lack of talent. And he’s just fine with his role, one he expects will develop even more.
“I enjoy it just because I like to help the team out as much as possible,” he said of being a wildcat QB.
He knew what was expected of him coming in after he recorded 253 receiving yards on 13 catches for the Broncbusters in 2016.
“I knew they would try to utilize me in any way,” he said. “Knew they might try to put in some wildcat, so I tried to learn the offense so they could put it in.”
He spent a great deal of time since arriving in January with receiver Tyler Bacon. The senior from Oklahoma, Hazlett said, is a big reason why he has grown comfortable in the system.
“He took me under his wing and kind of helped me out through the spring and then through the summer,” Hazlett said.
The Tiger coaches couldn’t be more pleased with the versatility Hazlett has delivered to the offense, and also expect his role to keep growing.
“I still think he can throw the ball pretty well, so we might need to start adding that as well,” Brown said. “I like the kid. He’s a competitor.
“He wants the ball in his hands every play, and when you get a kid like that, that’s the kind of kid you want.”
And while showing little emotion on the field — outside of when he’s scored twice — Hazlett displays an all-business demeanor. In just four games, he’s grown confident in his role within the offense, a group he says has yet to peak. He just wants to be a part of it.
“We haven’t hit our ceiling yet,” Hazlett said. “We have mini-lapses in games with penalties and dropped balls and stuff like that.
“Once we all get clicking, no one can stop us.”