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Record-setting Hadley shares load for Connell

CONNELL -- In the midst of Matt Hadley's record-setting junior season, he visited a Tri-Cities TV station.

While in the newsroom, he did his standard "deflect attention from himself and praise his teammates."

This apparently didn't sit well as he was requested a few times to act cocky for the camera.

Those who know Hadley best -- including his fellow teammates -- say this isn't someone blowing smoke, though.

This is the real deal.

A down-to-earth farm boy who appears just as comfortable talking about the corn on his family farm or how many cattle are in the 4H competition at the fair, he also doesn't mind sharing the limelight while putting his considerable talents on display.

Hadley will be the one who goes down in history with his name in the record books. But as always, it isn't all about him.

Tyson Brook, who was on the offensive line in 2010 and will switch to tight end this season, said Hadley's records are a legacy for everyone on the team and the Eagles will fondly remember being a part of it.

"We will," he said. "It's not only me saying that, other people have, too. (Hadley) knows it also, and he lets us know."

Hadley rushed for a state-record-tying 50 touchdowns last season, racking up 2,516 yards on 272 carries, good for seventh all time in one season.

With nearly everyone back on the offensive line, Hadley has similar goals this season, and his teammates -- such as Brook and quarterback Chandler Salisbury -- think he has a chance at the single-season state record of 2,676 yards.

"That's a pretty good record he set last year," Salisbury said. "He has improved a ton. I could see it happen again."

Hadley wouldn't say what his specific goals are, as he'd rather talk about ways he could improve and not just by gaining more muscle (oh, he added 15 pounds this offseason, by the way).

"This year I wanted to grow as a leader," he said, "so I could come in as a senior captain and be that leader that my team and my coaches need me to be."

As a junior, there were times where Hadley wanted to speak up, but was either shot down by the seniors or didn't feel comfortable.

This year, though, he isn't having any of that.

Watch a day at practice and you can see it. He's in the middle of nearly everything, helping direct things, leading by example, but also willing to have a little fun.

"Since I'm the senior now, it's kind of your job," Hadley said. "This senior class is so enthusiastic, so passionate. I'm looking forward to that this year."

And as good as Hadley is, ask him and he'll always be quick to point out that it isn't just about him. He points out the other seniors who provide leadership, the myriad offensive weapons the Eagles feature, the experienced offensive line that provides the holes for Hadley to hit, the quick defense, and on and on.

"That's what I love about this team," he said. "We're so close. There are no negative comments. ... What it's really all about is meeting our team goals. You have to make sure that is your No. 1 priority."

With all of the kids back for the Eagles, and all of the playoff experience, the No.1 priority of getting the state championship back in Connell seems like a real possibility.

Plus, the Eagles might just have the ultimate cherry on top: the greatest season by a running back this state has ever seen.

"I think he can get the record," Brook said. "I know he will. With his skills and the team all around -- from our QB to our line to our wide receivers setting him up with blocks, he has a good chance at getting it."

And if Hadley does find his name on top of multiple records at the end of the season, he already knows how he wants to be remembered.

"I'd like to be known as a great running back, sure," Hadley said, "but more importantly it's the kind of person you are -- that's what it all comes down to. I think that's more important than being known as the best running back in the history of Washington."

Not surprising, considering Hadley's personality.

* Craig Craker: 509-582-1509; ccraker@tricityherald.com; Twitter.com/craig_craker

Matt Hadley's career stats

2008: 36 carries, 200 yards, 1 TD; 2 receiving TDs

2009: 234 carries, 1,835 yards, 23 TDs; 5 receiving TDs, 3 punt return TDs, 1 fumble return TD

2010: 272 carries, 2,516 yards, 47 TDs; 1 receiving TD, 2 kickoff return TDs

Career totals: 542 carries, 4,551 yards, 71 TDs; 8 receiving TDs, 3 punt return TDs, 2 kickoff return TDs, 1 fumble return TD; 85 total TDs in 38 games (Note: rushing stats from the 2008 game vs. Moscow are unavailable)

State records in Hadley's sights

Career all-purpose TDs: Kirby Moore, Prosser (99 in 50 games)

Career scoring: Jeff Jack, Royal (723 points in 41 games)

Single-season rushing: Matthias Wilson, Ferndale (2,676 yards in 14 games)

Single-season all-purpose TDs: J.R. Hasty, Bellevue (50 in 13 games); Hadley, Connell (50 in 14 games)

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