"I wanted to touch the ball.”
He was playing varsity ball by his sophomore year at John Tyler High School. A year later, he was well on his way to breaking the school’s rushing record, a mark held for several decades by Hall of Fame legend Earl Campbell.
College recruiters were calling, and future plans were developing.
Then, one fall Friday night, Hunter made a dive toward the end zone. Defenders reached and grabbed as he leapt toward the goal line. He landed in the end zone for a highlight-worthy touchdown, but when Hunter popped up and started to walk, he fell right back down again.
Something was wrong with his foot, and he thought his shoe had come off.
"Then, I really looked,” he remembered. "It was twisted backward.”
Hunter had broken his ankle so severely that he would need a plate and screws to surgically repair it.
None of it fazed Hunter. He recovered quicker than his doctor had ever seen anyone rehab from such an injury. He returned to the field for spring ball about six months after the injury.
"It’s just me sitting out and realizing how much I love football,” he explained.
He carries a reminder of that with him always. He can still touch his ankle and feel the hardware just below the skin.
That motivates him.
Ditto for phone calls home to his family. His mom still lives in Tyler with his older brother and sister.
"They motivate me a lot,” Hunter said.
"I just wish I could do more for my family,” he said, his voice quiet but his words strong. "I just like to see them happy.”
Hunter already has quite a story to tell, but the final chapters have yet to be written. He has every intention of making the ending the happiest of them all.
Jenni Carlson: 475-3314; email@example.com; Carlson can be heard Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m. on KEBC-AM 1340.
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
→Who: No. 13 Oklahoma State vs. No. 15 Oregon
→When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
→Were: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
→TV: ESPN (Cox 29)
→Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
→Live blog: Follow online at blog.newsok.com/osu during the game.