Making it BIG! From 5th Grade Buddies at Owasso’s Ator Elementary – On to the NFL

Taybor Pepper & Keon Hatcher - Owasso 6th Grade

Taybor Pepper & Keon Hatcher – Owasso 6th Grade

 

The fall of 2004-2005 school year began like any other year at Ator Elementary in Owasso. The teachers and students all full of hopes and dreams of the year to come.

Mrs. Butlers 5th Grade class was like any other class, full of rambunctious 10-11 year old students.  At the beginning of the school year, Ms. Butler became ill and her class was taken over by teacher Shauna Fender for the remainder of the year. Ms. Fender is currently the librarian at the Owasso 8th Grade Center.

Keon Hatcher - 5th Grade Ator Elementary

Keon Hatcher – 5th Grade Ator Elementary

A new student coming in from Tulsa that year was Keon Hatcher. Also in that class was a returning Ator student, Taybor Pepper.   Taybor and Keon were also neighbors, living one block from each other,  and became fast friends.  Mrs. Fender describes the two this way, “Keon had moved from Tulsa and was a bit ornery. Taybor was one to always speak his mind. Together they were chaos but I really enjoyed being around them.”

 It is a good thing she enjoyed them,  as it turned out she was also a neighbor to them both.  “They would take my kids and Keon’s little brother on walks around the block” she said.  Donna Pepper, Taybor’s mother said both the boys worshiped their teacher.

Ms. Fender shared – “I am so proud of both boys. Keon made me promise to come see him play in High School, so I did. He also made me promise so come see him if he made it in the NFL which I am hoping to be able to do. Taybor is such a great young man I really enjoyed watching his career in football with Michigan State. They are so amazing and I wish them the best of luck.”

Both boys grew up playing sport together. They both played on the same 7th grade travel basketball team in Owasso.  Their coach at that time, Jerry Fowler shared his  memories of  the two friends. 

Taybor Pepper - 5th Grade - Ator Elementary

Taybor Pepper – 5th Grade – Ator Elementary

 

Jerry remembers Taybor as going through quite a growth spirt at the time,  and was all long arms and legs. Taybor adapted as he grew, though hard, and used the growth and lankiness to his advantage.  Jerry stated he thought that quality helped mold Taybor into such a great long snapper at Michigan State.

Jerry  had Keon for both 6th and 7th  grade basketball.  Keon and Jerry’s son Jared became friends and spent a lot of time together.  Jerry said he knew early on Keon had the potential to be something special.  He always listened, was extremely polite and always followed directions. He said he has always been  an excellent athlete all the way around.

J.J. Dossett, Oklahoma State Senator and former coach of the two shared: “Keon and Tabor are fine young men that I was lucky enough to be able to coach as they were beginning their journey with football. We are extremely blessed in our community to have an environment that nourishes our young people to succeed. Watching these two young men that played for the Owasso Rams together as 8th graders on the national stage is one of the many examples of the rewarding aspects of being an educator and a coach. I am very happy to have been a part of their development as kids and I am very excited to watch them perform in front of millions on Sundays. Our community gets to be proud of our kids once again.”

After Taybor’s 9th Grade year, his family was transferred to Saline, Michigan.

Both young men graduated from their respective High Schools in 2012, Taybor in Saline, Keon in Owasso.

Keon has said his best memory about playing football in Owasso was the Rams’ win in 2011 over top-ranked Union. Hatcher caught the game-winning pass with only 10 seconds left in the game.

Taybor Pepper - Green Bay Packers

Taybor Pepper – Green Bay Packers

Both started on their college teams as true freshman, which is unusual and quite an accomplishment.  Pepper at Michigan State and Hatcher at Arkansas. Hatcher did spend a redshirt season in 2015 to heal from a foot injury.

Fast forward twelve years. Twelve years since meeting each other in their 5th grade class at Ator.  Both young men had outstanding college football careers. Both are moving on to the next level.

After college, Taybor retained a Sports Agent, Kelli Master from Oklahoma City. The Packers contacted Taybor the Tuesday before Christmas last year and flew him to Green Bay.  They told his agent that day that they wanted him.

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Keon Hatcher – Razorbacks Photo

And now on to the NFL draft, where Keon watched and waited with his family in Owasso.  Though he did not hear his name called, other options were in the works. Within minutes of the last pick taken, Hatcher’s agent, Nicole Lynn, made the official announcement on Twitter that he would be headed to the Oakland Raiders.     

Though I have never heard it, maybe two elementary school buddies have made it to the top before, or maybe not.  I just know it is a first for Owasso, and we could not be prouder of the two, making their dreams come true.



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