BEREA — When Jerry Jones gives you a personal call on draft day, it’s a safe bet you’ve made it to the NFL.
That’s what happened to Clearview graduate Anthony Hitches on Saturday. The Iowa linebacker was selected in the fourth round with the 119th pick of the NFL Draft.
“I really didn’t pay attention to the noise. Honestly, I didn’t even know where I was projected or when,” Hitchens told reporters in Dallas on a conference call. “I just turned my focus on working hard and everything was already put into place. Whatever happens, happens. I was just going to be blessed with the opportunity I received if it was undrafted or drafted. I’m just blessed.”
Jones told Hitchens that the coaches were all “grinning from ear-to-ear” during the call to Hitchens, which was posted on the Cowboys’ website.
“They’re ready to see you come in here and I know you know how much work you’ve got ahead of here,” Jones said.
During the call, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus — who coached in Cleveland from 2009-10 — said Iowa’s defensive coordinator and Lorain native Phil Parker “stood on the table” for Hitchens. Eberflus and Parker, a graduate of Amherst High School, coached together for 10 years at the University of Toledo.
A variety of Dallas coaches told Hitchens to bring that “Iowa toughness” with him to Dallas. If he does, the Cowboys will get a linebacker who can pile up the tackles.
“I like to hit and I can run around and stuff like that,” Hitchens said. “Really, there’s a lot of things you’ve got to work on. But I think that’s the reason why they got me in Dallas because they’ve got a physical defense and they like to fly around and hit.”
Hitchens was a true senior who recorded 260 tackles in his career — recording at least 10 in 12 games during his junior and senior seasons. He led the Big Ten and was fifth in the nation with 11.2 tackles per game his junior year, which earned him a second-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and honorable mention from the media.
Despite piling up 124 tackles as a junior, he did not receive first-team All-Big Ten honors in part because only 5.5 of those tackles were for a loss. He also had just one sack.
Even though he recorded 12 fewer tackles his senior season, 13.5 of them came behind the line of scrimmage with two sacks. He forced and recovered two fumbles, defended two passes and intercepted a pass his senior season.
Hitchens was a three-sport star at Clearview and won Lorain County’s Golden Helmet award given to the top senior football player. He weighed just 200 pounds and had to put on weight in order to play linebacker for the Hawkeyes. Hitchens, who is 6-foot, ultimately gained 40 pounds.
He piled up 3,864 career rushing yards and 32 touchdowns with the Clippers, also playing defense and special teams.
Hitchens moved out of his family’s home in order to attend Clearview.
“I grew up with a real rough family, and my mom was going to send me to a high school that wasn’t best for me, and I wanted to go to college and play football in high school,” Hitchens said. “I ended up moving in with my quarterback (Zach Anderson) of my football team. His parents (Brad and Amy Anderson) took me in so they put me into a good high school that produced college, not college athletes, but just college kids, just to go get a degree, and I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship.
“I just wanted to take a different path. I didn’t want to be like everybody else in my family that didn’t go to college, so at age 12 I got adopted into the Anderson family.”
Hitchens said the decision was difficult, but he was glad he was presented with a better opportunity. His biological mom (Norma Hitchens) and adopted mom were with him while he was waiting to be drafted.
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.