(Photo of Scott Satterfield: Atlantic Coast Conference Pool)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The weekend of the 2021 NFL Draft is finally upon us, and with that comes another crop of Louisville players ready to take the next step in their respective football careers. Nine Cardinals in total declared for the draft, but as many know by now, the three headliners of that groups are wide receiver Tutu Atwell, running back Javian Hawkins and wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick.
Comparatively speaking, Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield had a limited time around them, as none of the three were actually recruited by him. But in just the two years that he got to be around the trio, he has seen a 'tremendous' amount of growth in them, both mentally and physically.
"All three of these guys, with a whole new staff coming in, new culture and the way we do things, obviously all new, it took some growing by everybody - really our whole team - but particularly those three guys," Satterfield said Wednesday before the draft. "They had to grow up a little bit, and figure out "what are these coaches doing? What are they telling us? What are they saying?" All three of these guys, to their credit, really bought into what we were doing, and they excelled."
While many in the draft world are pointing to Atwell's small frame as a reason why he might not excel at the next level, it pales in comparison to what he was at when Satterfield first took over the program in Dec. 2018 - just 140 pounds. But since then, he has put in the work to get him to a much more manageable playing weight.
"He ended up putting on a lot of weight, he played last year at 162," Satterfield said. "That's plenty big enough. He's fast enough, he can go out and make plays. But he grew up a lot, obviously broke the school record as a receiver, catching so many yards in that first year."
As many know by now, Hawkins was a blip on the running backs radar when the new staff arrived, with Satterfield even admitting that he was just 'third or fourth on the depth chart' when he arrived. But he was not deterred, battling like mad in fall camp, and the rest is history.
"As we get into August, he kind of was a second team guy, and all of a sudden after about the first scrimmage, he moved up to first team, and then he broke the school record as a running back," Satterfield said. "Just kind of came out from out of nowhere and had a great season, and then last year had a great season up until the point that he decided not to play anymore. He was great for us."
While both Atwell and Hawkins displayed immense levels of growth in a short time period, Satterfield says Fitzpatrick is the one who grew up the most on the entire team, not just between him and his other two counterparts.
"When we first got here, he was a little bit immature by the way he handled his business and by the way he did things," Satterfield said. "Then after that first semester, kind of thought, "Okay, let's go," and had a really good, solid first year, and then decided to come back and work on his craft. Did everything as an unselfish player."
Almost as soon as he arrived, the time has already come for the three to begin their professional football careers, and he could not be more excited to see where they go. That's because whether they are taken with a high draft pick, or sign as a priority free agent, he knows they will make some sort of impact in the NFL purely because of their effort.
"The biggest thing is what's in their heart. How hard are they going to go? Are they going to come to work every single day and go hard?" Satterfield said. "These guys, when they were here on the practice field, they went hard. You can tell anybody that has some ability that comes in here and puts the work in like that, they're going to be able to produce, and they did."
Even once they are officially professionals, the trio will still have a lasting impact on Louisville football under Satterfield. The now third-year head coach says they set the tone for the offense, and that it gives the younger players in the program a benchmark to follow.
"'I remember when Tutu was here, here's what he did, that's what I want to do,' and same thing with Hawkins and Dez," he said "They laid a great foundation for us in our program, and we can't wait to see what the next group is going to be able to do."
The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is already in the books, with rounds two and three taking place on Friday, Apr. 30 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Rounds four through seven will start on Friday, May 1 at 12:00 p.m. EST, and the entire draft will be televised on ESPN and the NFL Network.
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