Athlete of the Week: John Hader

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John Hader was glad to get a chance to play more for Maine South, but he hated the way it came about.

Hader, a junior, began the season as a special teams player and reserve defensive back. He moved into the starting lineup in Week 6 when two-way senior starter Michael Bosco was sidelined for the season with a torn ACL.

“That devastated our team,” Hader said.

But in his second game as a regular, Hader showed he was ready for a bigger role. In Saturday’s 31-21 comeback win over Evanston, Hader had three takeaways — two interceptions and a fumble recovery. That effort has earned him Sun-Times Athlete of the Week honors.

Hader also had an interception in a 45-0 Week 4 win against Niles North. But these takeaways loomed larger because of the closeness of the game.

“Evanston came out fired up,” Hader said. “It was their homecoming. They played great, they’re a very good team.”

But Hader rose to the challenge, which didn’t surprise Maine South coach David Inserra.

“He’s got a good nose for the football and is extremely quick,” Inserra said of the 5-foot-9, 156-pounder.

How quick is apparent when Hader runs sprints in practice. He’s had some spirited duels with senior quarterback Matt Alviti, a Northwestern recruit who’s one of the nation’s top prospects in the Class of 2013.

“We usually line up next to each other,” Hader said. “It really pushes [us to run against] each other. I’d like to think I win more than 50 percent, but it’s probably pretty even.”

Inserra knew before last week that Hader had big-play potential.

“We saw some of it this summer,” he said. “But Bosco was playing so well we didn’t need John so much.”

When Bosco was hurt, the other senior defensive backs — Alberto Rossi, John Cerniglia and Nathan Gruber — welcomed him into the fold. And Bosco also did what he could to bring Hader up to speed.

“He helped me out in practice a little,” Hader said. “[And] I think he was watching me out there.”

Hader could get even more playing time down the road as Inserra and offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss look for ways to utilize his sprinter’s speed.

“We use him once in a while in practice,” Inserra said. “Next year we may use him a little more as a senior.”

For now, Hader’s happy to fill Bosco’s shoes.

“I just want to do my job,” he said. “I didn’t want to make any big mistakes.”

Far from it on Saturday, as he helped the top-ranked Hawks (7-0) stay unbeaten with big play after big play.

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