Former University of Michigan basketball player Austin Hatch, now a student assistant coach for the Wolverines, is heading to the Sweet Sixteen as a student coach, and while a lot of athletes endure a lot to get to their position in life, Hatch has certainly known struggle in life, surviving two plane crashes that claimed the lives of different members of his immediate family both times, as well as having to learn to walk again after being in a coma.
Hatch survived two different plane crashes that both claimed the lives of his loved ones
In 2003, when he was eight years old, Hatch and his father, Stephen, survived a plane crash that claimed the lives of his mother, Julie, 11-year-old sister, Lindsay, and five-year-old brother, Ian. Hatch believes that he survived the tragedy because of his father, who piloted the plane, as he threw him from the wreckage; Hatch also attributed his father with helping him endure the emotional trauma caused by the crash.
Unfortunately, tragedy would strike again in 2011, shortly more than a week after Hatch earned a scholarship with the University of Michigan, with another plane crash, that claimed the life of his father and stepmother, Kimberly. While Hatch survived the crash, he was left in a medically-induced coma with brain trauma among other injuries, such as a punctured lung, fractured ribs and a broken collarbone. At the time, doctors worried that Hatch would be confined to a bed for the rest of his life, meaning that he would need to learn how to walk and talk again.
The school still honored his scholarship after he recovered
Eventually, however, Hatch learned to walk again and was taken in by an uncle and moved to Los Angeles, where he finished high school. In 2013, the University of Michigan honored his scholarship, allowing him to join the Wolverines.
According to The Detroit News, Michigan coach John Beilein issued the following statement describing what it was like seeing Hatch recover firsthand:
“When the NCAA allowed me to go see him when he was finally out of the coma — the last time I saw him he was one of the best sophomores in the country, without question.”
“He reminded me of a young Wally Szczerbiak. He was tremendous. He played a great team and dominated them. And now I see him and he doesn’t weigh 210, he weighs like 140 now. He can’t eat a sandwich and can hardly walk. He can move like six inches at a time when he walks.
“When you see that and then you see this (today) — his family and his fiancée, Abby, it makes your heart warm. If we’ve been a small part of his life, it’s tremendous. He’s been a huge part of my life and this team’s life.”
According to the same publication, Hatch himself described how grateful he was to the school:
“They always say the measure of a man is how he treats someone he can’t repay.”
“I’ll never be able to repay Coach Beilein and his staff, but I’m extremely grateful and I’ve done very best to show my appreciation by how I approach everyone here.”
After a year playing for the team, it was decided between Hatch and Beilein that he should focus on his studies and was hired by the team as a student assistant. Hatch will graduate from Michigan this year and walk down the aisle with his fiancee, Abby Cole, who he proposed to last may.
According to MGoBlue, Hatch had the following to say about the new love in his life:
“Abby is the reason I’m still here…I really believe that.”
“Given everything that’s happened — it’s been horrific, tragic, I’ve lost so much,” said Hatch. “But sometimes I have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Do you really have it this good?’ With all the great people I have in my life: Abigail, her family, my family, all my friends, Coach (John) Beilein, the rest of the staff, everyone here. It’s hard to believe.”
“If you would’ve told me six and a half years ago when I was in a hospital and couldn’t walk that I would be getting ready to graduate from Michigan, that I was getting married to the woman of the dreams, that I would’ve had an incredible experience in four years at Michigan … If you would’ve told me that, I’d have been like, ‘You’re crazy.’ I’m here to tell you it’s been better than I even could’ve imagined.”