Remember Kevin Hart?, well he's backkkkkkkkkkkkk

By: Woodchips



I sure Cal fans remember him well


Prep Football: Putting the past behind him
By chris gabel • cgabel@rgj.com • September 5, 2008


QUINCY, Calif. -- As the setting sun shines down on the thousands of pine trees that plaster the east hill overlooking the small, quiet town of Quincy, Calif., one tree looks exactly like the other.


It is impossible to single one out, to tell one from the next.

Having traded in the dust fields of Fernley for the forests of Quincy and Feather River College, Kevin Hart is hoping to do the same. His name has stood out in Northern Nevada and California for eight months, and his story is even more widely known.

Hart is the former Vaqueros offensive lineman who made national news in February as the recruit who committed to play for the Cal Bears without a scholarship offer, and then as the victim of a cruel hoax before ultimately admitting the entire process was a fraud.

He is getting a second chance at his dream of playing college football. But it is at a junior college instead of the Division I level.

By making the 21/2-hour move into a secluded part of Plumas County, Hart hopes to leave the fiasco behind.

"It's come up, but everyone's been real cool," Hart said Wednesday. "They've said the past is the past, and that's why I came here. I realize what I did, and I'm not trying to shy away from it. I'm just here to move on and continue my career."

Moving On

Hart does not like to talk about the five days in February that started with a momentous commitment ceremony at a school assembly and ended with an abrupt one-paragraph admission of guilt on National Signing Day.

He did not want to talk about what it was like staying home from school after coming clean, or for how long he did so.

He steered clear of questions about how things got so out of control, or why Oregon and California -- his top suitors in the charade -- were chosen.

He declined to discuss any details of the story that reached ESPN, national radio shows and countless Internet message boards, the story that only got bigger with the eventual involvement of the sheriff's department and school district in Lyon County.

"I'm just trying to move on," Hart said.

But Hart, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound guard, did divulge everything to Feather River coach Tom Simi upon arriving on campus Aug. 4. To say the least, it was a conversation that differed quite a bit from those the coach had with the rest of his newcomers.

"It got to be difficult to let people down," Simi said. "He's a kid and, I guess, he just kind of gave in to the situation. He took responsibility, which I also thought was important."

Even before hearing the entire narrative, Simi was confident his high-profile recruit would not be a problem.

"He did something wrong, but not something that should keep him out of the game forever. I don't think he should get a football death penalty," Simi said. "There is always an inherent risk in recruiting. ... I had to think about if this was someone we wanted in the program. But the mission of junior college football is to give kids opportunities to become better young men.

"It's not a case of a pathological liar. What's the harm in giving the kid the opportunity? He didn't do anything that I deem unforgivable. You're not going to have an 80-man roster without having some kind of skeletons."

Fitting In

Feather River's Juan Villegas played against Hart when the former was at Sparks and knew of Hart's skeletons. So, he was the last person Villegas expected to see on the first day of training camp.

"I was like, 'Wow.' It was a shock," the freshman offensive lineman said. "I would have thought he'd just stop playing; it was kind of embarrassing. But he wants to play, so we got a spot for him."

Hart gets the same pats on the shoulder pads as his fellow offensive linemen when he makes a great block, and the same slaps to the helmet when he false starts.

But on a team with players from California to Florida and South Carolina to New Jersey, Hart is the one new teammate most players knew, though they had never met him before.

Brandon Brady, a 2008 Reed graduate, kept up with the Hart story last winter.

"Pretty much the first time everybody met him they were like, 'Oh, he's that guy,'" Brady said, "but then after that we wanted to see what he could do.

"The first day we kind of talked about it and got that squared away. But that's his past and we don't care about it. We're looking at now and toward the future. As long as he plays hard, that's fine with me."

But it's been a month since players first reported, and some are still looking up Hart clips on YouTube or talking about the story.

"He just wanted to live the dream," Villegas said. "'I want to know what he was thinking.' That's what most guys say."

Getting In

Feather River opens its season Saturday, eight months to the day Hart came clean to the recruiting hoax, and he should see time against visiting College of the Sequoias.

Hart is a second-teamer, after tweaking his knee last week and missing a few practices. He was competing for a starting spot on a young offensive line before the injury.

"He's made good progress, for sure, but then he got dinged up and that slowed his progress down," Simi said. "He's transitioning like a typical freshman. The guys he's trying to block are faster and he's learning new plays, so he's thinking. When you think, it slows you down. He's fighting through the issues all freshman face."

Simi, also the Golden Eagles' offensive line coach, was interested in Hart almost right away. His size, which is up from 290 pounds in high school, is intriguing. Simi did his research, though.

"The more I looked into the story the more I thought, 'Oh my God, this is crazy,'" he said.

But the coach got the go-ahead from his athletic director, Merle Trueblood, and left two phone messages for Hart without a call back. Simi kind of gave up at that point.

Then while going through online questionnaires one day, Simi came across one Hart filled out and tried again. After questioning whether he wanted to play football anymore, Hart was back.

"The support I got back home, from everyone at that school, you can't ask for anything more," Hart said. "And I'm out here for them as well, to show them that they were right for encouraging me to go to school and continue playing football.

"I'm all right. Adjusting to a new system is a little different. It's been slow but I'm progressing, getting better every day."

Simi sees a lot of potential in Hart. He has a lot of qualities that cannot be coached, with size and a desire to get better atop the list.

It has been Hart's dream to play at a Division I program, which is part of what got him into trouble before, and Feather River has produced six Division I offensive linemen the past two years. Hart, Simi said, could fall into that category in two years.

"He's got some things to work on, like turning that size into muscle and his quickness and balance, but the building blocks are there," Simi said. "I'm very happy he's here and in our program. I think he has a chance to be a very good player."


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