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Four days to the Dome: Hard-hitting Hulsey finds home on special teams

POSTED: December 15, 2007 5:02 a.m.

Chase Hulsey's eyes widen just thinking about playing in the Georgia Dome on Saturday afternoon. This North Hall senior gets goose bumps visualizing running out of the tunnel onto the field for the AAA semifinal against Cairo.

There will be a sea of green there to support the Trojans. But first and foremost for Hulsey it's a business trip to win a football game.

And once he gets on the field, he knows exactly what his job is going to be. Hulsey's going to be the first one pumping his fists in the air and jumping around on the field before kickoff as the emotional leader of the Trojans' football team.

Hulsey gives every ounce of his energy to deliver the bone-crunching hit as the wedge-buster on North Hall's kickoff team. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound specialist feels the chance to deliver a big hit is much more fulfilling than scoring a touchdown or catching a long pass.

"I just try to play out of my mind when I get on the field," Hulsey said. "When I hear the crowd cheering it just gets me even more pumped up and want to play even harder."

Hulsey is a creature of habit once he hits the field for kickoffs.

First, he jumps up and down to bring the crowd to their feet. Then he throws up an "X" with his arms in the air while bobbing his head up and down just thinking about getting to hit somebody. Then he points to his father, Chris Hulsey, in the bleachers, and to the student body, as well.

"I have to make my dad proud," Hulsey said.

Once the kick is in the air, everyone holds their breath as they watch Hulsey barrel full throttle down the field looking for a target. Once he spots the wedge to protect the kick returner, he leaves his feet at full speed to crash through the opponent's wall of protection.

On one kickoff this season, he hit the wedge with such force that it knocked both the blocker and kick returner to the ground like dominoes.

On a big hit, he'll rise back to his feet pumping his fists, then charge off to the sideline to give North Hall's defense a shot of adrenaline as they hit the field.

"There's just something about making a bit hit that gets me excited," Hulsey said. "I'm impressed with anyone who can get the best of me."

At times, the North Hall coaching staff worries about his safety on the field with his apparent disregard for his own well-being.

"We know he loves to run down the field," North Hall coach Bob Christmas said. "We make sure he keeps his head up with the way he throws his body around."

Even though he doesn't start on offense or defense, Hulsey's passion doesn't subside on the sideline. In last Friday's quarterfinal game against Perry, his enthusiasm was on display for everyone to see.

With only seconds remaining and the outcome teetering in the balance of a last second field goal attempt by the Panthers, the majority of North Hall's team hit a knee to pray.

But Hulsey couldn't sit still. He grabbed a cheerleader's megaphone and insisted that the fans stay on their feet.

The extra energy must have helped. Perry's kicker missed the deciding field goal.

"He just pumps us all up with his enthusiasm for playing," Trojans lineman Daniel Blitch said. "Everyone on the team feeds off of his energy."

Hulsey is most appreciative of one final season to play football, after missing his entire junior season with mononucleosis. He started last season on a bad note with a broken foot in the preseason only to get the news he wouldn't play again until he was a senior.

With a healthy Hulsey, the impact for North Hall is huge. The average starting field position for the opposition is the 21, according to Christmas. With the Trojans' gritty defense, that leads to better field position for the offense and more scoring opportunities.

"I've found my role with this team, and want to do my part to help us win," Hulsey said. "I just like to make the best of things, and give God the glory for everything I'm able to do."

Hulsey doesn't want to get too swept up in the emotion of playing in front of the biggest crowd of his life this weekend at the Dome. But he certainly wants to give the fans a show to remember in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I'm gonna give it all I got," Hulsey said.



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