Fayette County

UK’s Hatcher dismissed from football team after marijuana trafficking charge

Kentucky defensive end Jason Hatcher (6) celebrated a sack in the third quarter as the University of Kentucky hosted Auburn Oct. 15, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.
Kentucky defensive end Jason Hatcher (6) celebrated a sack in the third quarter as the University of Kentucky hosted Auburn Oct. 15, 2015, at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington.

Jason Hatcher’s turbulent University of Kentucky football career ended Monday with a short statement from the school saying the linebacker had been dismissed from the team.

The dismissal came hours after Hatcher was charged with two felonies when he was arrested with a pound of marijuana, according to the Franklin County sheriff.

And it came after the junior from Louisville Trinity had previous brushes with the law.

His latest incident centered around a traffic stop early Monday when police found three-fourths of a pound of marijuana in a vacuum-sealed bag in the passenger seat floorboard of Hatcher’s 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe and a quarter of a pound “stuck down his pants,” according to Sheriff Pat Melton.

Radar caught Hatcher going 81 mph in a 70 mph zone on eastbound Interstate 64 and he was stopped about 1 a.m. near the Frankfort exit, Melton said. A deputy “detected a very strong odor” of marijuana and had Hatcher step out of the SUV while the deputy got gloves for a search.

While getting his gloves in the squad car, the deputy observed Hatcher using the light on his phone to search his SUV, Melton said.

When the deputy got back to Hatcher, “it was obvious that there was something unnatural sticking out of his pants,” Melton said.

The trafficking charge qualifies as a Class D felony and carries a one- to five-year jail sentence, Melton said. He said the tampering with physical evidence charge is also a Class D felony.

Hatcher was also charged with possessing drug paraphernalia and speeding 11 miles over the limit.

Hatcher was booked into the Franklin County Regional Jail at 2:35 a.m. Monday. He was released later Monday morning.

In 2014, Hatcher was cited for marijuana possession along with former Trinity teammate James Quick. The charge was dismissed and later expunged after Hatcher completed a marijuana education program.

He missed the first two games last season for a university-sanctioned suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

As a freshman, Hatcher was one of three players suspended for a November game at Georgia.

In December, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops sounded confident that the soon-to-be senior had learned from his problems.

“I saw some growth in him as a person and on the field,” Stoops said of Hatcher, who played in nine games and started five as a junior in 2015. Battling through an ankle injury as well, Hatcher finished UK’s 5-7 season with 39 tackles, including two sacks.

“I would love to see him just have a big senior year on the field and off,” Stoops said. “He’s doing the right things and I expect him to stay that way.”

The statement from UK on Monday said the school and Stoops would have no further comment on Hatcher’s dismissal.

Hatcher, who had 3.5 of his 5.5 tackles for loss in the final three games, was expected to be a pass rushing threat in 2016.He was third on the team in tackles for loss despite limited playing time.

UK was last in the league in sacks last season with 17 and had only nine in league play. It was the Cats’ fewest since 2009.

Kentucky’s 53 tackles for loss was tied for last in the league and ranked 122nd nationally out of 128 teams. Kentucky returns just one player who recorded at least two tackles for loss.

With graduated players and Hatcher’s dismissal, UK loses 67.6 percent of its sacks and 66 percent of its tackles for loss.

In December, Stoops was optimistic about the Cats’ depth at outside linebacker. He mentioned the addition of transfers Courtney Love (Nebraska) and De’Niro Laster (Minnesota), and the return of Kobie Walker, who is back after missing last season with injury and academic problems.

Michael McKay: 859-231-1324, @hlpublicsafety, Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

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