Ex-Gator Hart could get award for supporting role

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 11, 2000

FLORENCE, Ala. If post-game awards were given in football like they are in the movies, Deforest Hart would be a lock for best supporting player after Delta State’s 63-34 win over Bloomsburg (Pa.) for the Division II national championship on Saturday.

Hart, a senior slotback, rushed for 84 yards on just eight carries, scored one touchdown and keyed two more scoring drives with long runs. He was also an ankle-tackle away from two other touchdown runs and was wide open on a potential TD pass, but it was knocked down by a defender 3 yards in front of him.

It was a welcome change for Hart, who had been relegated to more of a blocker and decoy in the Statesmen’s last two playoff wins.

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“The last four games, I didn’t really do too much. It didn’t really feel right unless you got in there and really just did something, so I was really happy when I got in there,” Hart said of his touchdown, a 5-yarder in the third quarter.

The contribution was similar to the one Hart has given throughout his career not so overwhelming that you notice him right away, but essential to a team’s success. In most games, with most teams, Hart’s effort on Saturday would be prominently displayed. Instead, it was lost in the shuffle of Delta State’s championship-game record 524 rushing yards.

Over the course of this season, Hart ranked third on the team in rushing and receiving yards, yet was overshadowed by Conerly Trophy winning quarterback Josh Bright, 1,500-yard rusher Rico McDonald and 1,000-yard receiver Jason Franklin.

“It was a great year for me. The last year, my senior year, was the best of my whole career,” Hart said, adding with a big smile that there was no better way to finish. “State, conference, semifinals, South region, it doesn’t have anything on nationals … I’m glad we made it this far.”

Success has followed Hart everywhere he’s played, from Vicksburg High to Hinds and now DSU. He won a state championship while with Hinds in 1997, and on Saturday helped the Statesmen win their first national championship.

“Deforest played hard. Deforest is a guy who played behind Terrance Williams, the nation’s leading rusher, at Hinds Community College. He didn’t get to play much … I don’t know how (he was overlooked),” DSU coach Steve Campbell said. “They epitomize us because nobody really expected anything out of us and nobody really expected anything out of them as individuals or us out of coaches. They expected mediocrity.

“But there’s something special about people playing for their teammates and not for themselves, and they really draw that out.”