Hamilton workhorse closes career in style
Patterson named to All-Suburban team for second straight year
The Pattersons are finally giving someone else a chance.
For three years, the first family of Sussex Hamilton football has had a stranglehold on the Offensive Back of the Year plaudit in the Greater Metro Conference. First, it was Nick, who ran the Chargers to a conference title before graduating and continuing his running back career at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. In 2012 and 2013, younger brother, Drew, handled the load and led Hamilton to back-to-back seven-win seasons.
Though the 2013 campaign came with its share of challenges, Patterson still racked up 1,673 yards, earning a second consecutive selection to the NOW Newspapers All-Suburban team. Greater Metro coaches are surely relieved that the Patterson line of running backs has come to an end.
"It was a fun run at the end," Patterson said, referring to his team's Level 1 victory and close 28-20 call against Homestead in Level 2. "It was up and down at the beginning and middle of the season, but it was nice to string of a couple good weeks together. We were playing some pretty good football."
Patterson's up-and-down 2013 began before the season started. On one of his final training days of the summer, he caught his foot on the track during agility work and tore two ligaments in his ankle. The ailment cost him the entire preseason and two-a-day work, and he rehabbed at NX Level in Waukesha.
"The first week came, and I gave it a go and battled through it," Patterson said of his team's 44-16 loss to eventual state finalist Franklin. He ran for 122 yards in the opener.
"I didn't really feel at full speed at the beginning of the season, and as the season went on, it lingered," he admitted. "Toward the end, in the last couple games and playoffs, it felt fine. I was back to full strength."
Patterson still ran 235 times and averaged 7.1 yards per carry, wtih 25 touchdowns. He was named the East Region Offensive Player of the Year and finished his career with 4,876 yards and 68 touchdowns.
Coach John Damato thought the injury's only true impact was taking Patterson out of football shape by robbing him of preseason conditioning.
"I felt he had a better year this year than last," Damato said. "Though his stats weren't as good — still very good —he had a very inexperienced line and had a lot more yards-after-catch yards this year. He had to step up more as a leader as well. Leading by example was not good enough; this year he had to be a vocal leader as well."
Last year, his blocking corps included All-Suburban tight end Tony Gumina and tackle Tony Koepnick, now starting at tackle as a freshman on the national semifinalist UW-Whitewater team. This year, the line was younger, and the offense was besieged by injuries to more than just Drew.
"We were young on offense; only two people returning that had substantial starting experience," Patterson said. "We got hurt with injuries right away. People had to fill roles. The main thing was keeping people up (emotionally) going through games."
Patterson said a conversation with his brother, Nick, helped inspire the decision to play through pain. Nick was granted a medical redshirt with UWW this year after tearing his hamstring early in the season.
"We were just talking and he talked about not wanting to miss a game, senior year especially," Drew said. "It just became a goal to get back in that first game."
While Nick made his living with tremendous speed and shiftiness, the 6-foot-0, 208 pound Drew was able to use his physicality.
"I feel like a lot of stuff I've learned in football came from my brother, playing with him and growing up and watching him," Drew said. "Obviously, I was a little bit bigger when I was younger. He was more shifty and better with his feet, being more elusive. I've always liked contact; I've never shied away from it."
Drew does have some college options, and he expects to make a decision about his football future sometime in January. He has official visits lined up at Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo., Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois.
Drew's high-school athletic career isn't over. He's already begun his basketball season, and he'll be part of an elite 4x400 track and field relay in the spring, which brings back all four legs from last year's fourth-place finisher. He'll also run in sprint events and probably the 4x200 relay as well.
"His competitiveness and eagerness to be the best are superior," Damato said. "A lot of athletes fall into a trap called complacency, but Drew never has. He always strives to reach his potential and to reach his own personal expectations. A small fraction of athletes have actually done this in their careers, and Drew is one of them."
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