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SEC tackling ref a YouTube favorite.


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SEC tackling ref a YouTube favorite

The Associated Press

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Columbia, S.C. — Former Kentucky linebacker Wilbur Hackett Jr.’s latest hit may be his most popular of all.

The former Wildcat standout and current Southeastern Conference official was the umpire in last Saturday night’s LSU-South Carolina game and became an instant Internet sensation for his shoulder-first knock back of Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia. By mid-day Tuesday, there were at least 14 versions of the play on YouTube.com with more than 1 million combined views.

And that doesn’t count those who watched as ESPN featured the collision from its LSU-South Carolina broadcast on SportsCenter the past few days.

For the few left who haven’t seen the clip, South Carolina stood first-and-goal on the LSU 8 when Garcia took the snap, started right and cut back left. Hackett, the umpire, slid along the line of scrimmage with the play. Then when Garcia turned slightly toward the middle, Hackett appeared to step into the freshman quarterback with his right shoulder and forearm.

The crash knocked Garcia off balance as LSU safety Curtis Taylor rushed in to finish the tackle.

South Carolina offensive lineman Jarriel King helped Garcia up after the 4-yard gain, then put his big arm around the quarterback and patted him on the facemask. Even though the Gamecocks scored a touchdown three plays later to move in front 17-10 — their last lead in game they’d lose 24-17 — its hasn’t stopped bloggers, sports talk callers and college Cyberfans from questioning if Hackett took the chance to relive his playing days by laying out Garcia.

Not the case, the SEC says.

The league’s coordinator of football officials, Rogers Redding, reviewed the tape and considered the hit to be inadvertent contact, SEC spokesman Charles Bloom said.

Bloom said the umpire position lends itself to more contact than other is seen with other on-field officials. “We feel there was nothing else that needs to be read into it and it was a collision between a player and an official,” Bloom said.

Hackett won’t face any discipline for what the league considers protecting himself from an onrushing player, Bloom said.

Requests to the SEC to speak with Redding and Hackett were turned down. A message left at the home of a Wilbur Hackett Jr. in Louisville, Ky., was not immediately returned.

Hackett’s no stranger to leveling SEC quarterbacks. A star at linebacker and running back at Louisville’s duPont Manual High School, Hackett went on to play at Kentucky from 1968-70 where he became the first black football team captain in SEC history, according to Kentucky’s media guide.

In 1970, Hackett shared the Wildcats’s most valuable player award with fellow linebacker Joe Federspiel. Hackett was also honored that year as the team’s most valuable senior.

Neither of the coaches, LSU’s Les Miles or South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, thought Hackett did anything wrong.

Spurrier thought Hackett was trying to get out of Garcia’s way.

Miles, always coaching them up, couldn’t help critiquing Hackett’s technique.

“We told him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to use your flipper. You’ve got to use your forearm. But then you have to wrap up.’ I want you to know that we were disappointed in his effort to be honest with you,” said Miles, a smile on his face as reporters laughed Monday.

Getting serious, Miles said Hackett reacted instinctively to protect himself once Garcia turned his way.

“Certainly, everybody in this room would look to defend themselves, and I’m certain that’s what he was thinking,” Miles said.

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