STILLWATER — Everyone says Kendall Hunter is quiet. Never says much. Doesn’t have much to say, really. But the truth is, the Oklahoma State running back has quite a story to tell. He endured a rough life at home. He experienced a tough break on the field.
Yet like so many defenders this season, none of it stopped Hunter. Instead, it motivated him. Hunter has become one of the best backs in the country. There have been big numbers and huge games, conference honors and national recognition. And now with the Cowboys readying for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Hunter is preparing to show his stuff again. "When I saw Kendall playing last year, I was like, ‘This guy’s amazing,’ ” offensive lineman David Washington said. "I never thought we’d miss a beat.” Hunter is speedy and shifty, but the thing that sets him apart is his physicality. He runs so hard, so tough. Even at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he’s difficult to bring down. Then again, that has been the story of his life. Hunter was born an hour and a half east of Dallas in Tyler, Texas. His mother, Freddie, and his father, Kenny, married when Hunter was a toddler, but they separated a few years later. That left Hunter’s mother to raise three children largely on her own. She worked all sorts of odd jobs around Tyler. The hours were long. The wages were low. "She did all of what she could,” Hunter said. But that understanding didn’t necessarily make childhood any easier. Not always having the shoes or the clothes or the toys like his friends was tough. Hunter found solace on the football field. There, he was like everyone else. He wasn’t needy. He wasn’t lacking. He wasn’t different. Except for his unbelievable skill. His first season of youth football, his coach stuck him on the offensive line. Yep, the guy nicknamed "Spud” was once an offensive lineman. But the next season, he switched teams and positions. He was soon playing running back, and that changed everything.