Hart’s feet help on, off playing field at Delta State

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 24, 2000

Deforest Hart’s quick feet have served him well in life.

First, they helped him become a star running back at Vicksburg High, then part of a state championship team at Hinds Community College.

But on a typical day at Delta State, Hart’s feet undergo the biggest test of all shuffling from one meeting room to the next, all while trying to cram as much information as possible and escape the wrath of angry coaches.

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As a senior slotback for the 10-1 Statesmen, Hart plays a pivotal role in almost every facet of DSU’s offense. While it has increased his playing time and his contribution to the team, it also means he has to attend position meetings for running backs, wide receivers and special teams.

“When I first started here, I had to go from one meeting room to another meeting room, then to special teams and then to practice,” said Hart, whose team will meet Catawba, N.C., in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday. “I was in pretty good shape and I knew what I had to do.”

His biggest challenge Saturday will be using his feet to get on an airplane, something he has never done.

“We get to fly. I’ve never flown before, so that’s a new experience,” Hart said. “I used to be (scared), but I’m ready. I said I’d never get on a plane, but now I guess I have to.”

Hart’s progress has taken off from his first season with the Statesmen.

Last season, Hart was on the bottom rung of a three-back attack. He saw his share of carries, but didn’t play a much bigger role. This season, the DSU coaching staff moved him to slotback, more of an all-purpose position that is used equally in the running and passing game.

“This year I play way more, participate way more and contribute way more than I did last year,” Hart said.

Hart said the extra hours of preparation were tough at first, but he quickly adjusted to the multiple roles, along with the multiple meetings, and it has shown as he has blossomed in his jack-of-all-trades role.

While his numbers aren’t eye-popping he has rushed for 339 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 5.7 yards per carry he ranks fourth on the team in receiving yardage, with 19 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns, and returns the occasional kickoff.

“It’s really amazing he picks it up as well as he does,” Delta State offensive coordinator Mark Hudspeth said. “He has to learn a lot of different things.”

Hart also serves as a blocker for quarterback Josh Bright, the Conerly trophy candidate who has rushed for 1,000 yards and thrown for 1,000 more, and as a decoy in the passing game.

Hudspeth said Hart’s ability to not only serve several roles, but to do them well, have contributed heavily to the Statesmen’s best season in 35 years.

“He’s probably one of the biggest reasons we are where we are,” Hudspeth said. “In our offense, we’re very multi-faceted on offense and with his athleticism he can do a lot of different things it would normally take two people to do.

“… I think coaches in this conference know what type of player he is, and they have their eyes on him.”