GODFREY — Nick Hatfield has been a three-year varsity starter for the Alton Redbirds' soccer program. On Wednesday the AHS senior announced his decision for the next stop in his career — Millikin University in Decatur.
There is no doubt Hatfield will be missed — he was the team's captain as a senior — but Alton head coach Jay Robertson is happy to see him advance his career and thinks Millikin is a good fit.
“From a coaching standpoint we're always proud when the kids are able to achieve something they dreamed about doing for a long time and Nick has always wanted to go play at the next level,” Robertson said. “He's worked hard on and off the field and become a better player every year. He was the team captain for us this year and had a really nice year. As far as college wise I know he'll succeed in the classroom as well as he's a versatile player, so wherever he goes he'll be able to play.
“As far as program wise it was what he was looking for and they talk about coming in and being able to play right away, which coming in as a freshman that's a big deal.”
Hatfield just fell in love with the Big Blue, from campus to classroom to the field. He felt it fit him flawlessly.
“It's a privilege to play at the college level and it's always been a dream of mine,” Hatfield said. “Basically right when I stepped on campus (at Millikin) it was like, 'This is it.' The coaches welcomed me and I felt like we just clicked. It was just that moment of, 'This is for me.'”
Millikin beat out a race for Hatfield over Illinois Wesleyan, which recruited him first.
“Millikin came in the picture after our Edwardsville win, 1-0, and I just decided to take a look at it and I'm glad I did, because I'm glad to call it my own over the next four years,” he said.
Hatfield finished second on the Redbirds in goals and points in 2015. He tallied 7 goals and 6 assists for 13 points from his midfielder position.
The Big Blue have made plans to use him as a center midfielder next season, but Hatfield is open to shift around on the field with his versatility.
“They brought me up and said, 'Hey, we have this kid who is exactly like you and we want you two to play in the midfield and give us an attack and we think you guys will click very well quickly,'” Hatfield said. “They want me to be creative and get some scoring opportunities.”
Hatfield has learned versatility on the soccer field from years of experience. He's spent plenty of club time outside of his prep experience, playing for Scott Gallagher.
“I've played St. Louis Scott Gallagher for the last seven or eight years and they've really taught me a lot about the game and how to act on and off the field,” Hatfield said. “We travel a lot, so they've taught me a lot about responsibility.”
There is one important characteristic he's picked up though that he credits to Robertson and his time at Alton. Hatfield thinks it will make his time at Millikin a much more enjoyable one, too.
“Passion, that's one thing that I've learned a great amount of,” he said. “Every since I was a sophomore I've played varsity and the passion just kept on rising.”
Robertson said he will definitely be missed, for his versatility and leadership on the field and off of it.
“The last couple years he's just been a good leader for us,” Robertson said. “He always sets a good example for everybody, plays hard, comes to play every day. That's something you always want, leadership and somebody who creates for you on the field and we're going to miss that quite a bit.”
Looking at his accomplishments off the field, Hatfield won't have any issues in the classroom at Millikin either.
He is a constant on the honor roll, a member of National Honor Society as a senior, earned Rotary Student of the Month this year and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society in eighth grade just to name a few of his accomplishments.
He intends to major in International Business at Millikin and possibly in Spanish as well. He was also a four-year member of the Spanish Club at AHS.
“I'll be doing something in International Business, something in finance and will probable double major in Spanish as well,” Hatfield said.
As for his college goals on the field, Hatfield already has the bar set high before he ever steps on the pitch.
“I want to win a national title,” he said bluntly. “That team has kept on getting closer and closer to that title and I just want to help them get that title.”