KNOXVILLE (WATE) – One season. One shot. Chris Hunter has his target.
“Austin-East going to win state.”
It’s a bold statement, but like a promise he made to his mom and grandma years ago, the new Roadrunners senior quarterback is proving to be a man of his word.
“After my sixth grade basketball season, I told her I was going to go to college for free,” Hunter recalls. “‘You won’t have to pay for nothing.’ But it was in a different sport. It was down there, in the gym,” he says, gesturing off the football field to the basketball gym in the distance.
Earlier this week, he fulfilled that guarantee, committing to play football for the Army Black Knights.
“He kept saying, I’m a basketball player, I’m a basketball player,” head coach Jeff Phillips says with a laugh. “I said, Okay Chris, you think you’re a basketball player, but you’re going to go to college to play football, I don’t care what you say.'”
Promises kept. Like quarterback, like coach.
“You know he came in as a freshman, he wanted to play quarterback, that’s all he wanted to play.”
Future Coastal Carolina signee Darius Harper had the quarterback position locked up, so Hunter found his way onto the field as a linebacker. An ankle injury kept him off of it for almost his entire sophomore season, but he returned as a junior, piling up 90 tackles and five picks as the team’s defensive player of the year. Suddenly, a future in football looked a lot more likely.
“Those first offers started coming in, and I said Chris, this all starts because of your hard work in the classroom. I can sell a 3.4, 23 on your ACT. Now I can show them the film,” says Phillips.
His hard work both on the field and in the classroom helped lead him to his emotional commitment in late July. An emotional day for his mom, and for Hunter, who carries the memory of his cousin Zaevion Dobson close to his hear.
“We always told each other we were gonna go play at the next level. So for him, passing away, knowing I achieved that goal, making him proud up in the skies, it was really emotional.”
Though he’ll get his chance to lead at quarterback this year, his future in football seems destined for defense.
“He’s going to bring leadership, and fight. He don’t care who you is,” says his longtime teammate, senior wide receiver Kevin Andrews. “He’s going fight to the end, and compete to the end.”
Like his high school quest to play quarterback, it’s a future he’s persevered for.
“When he went to Army, I sent him a text that said man how good does it feel to take your parents on a plane to see Army,” said Phillips. “He sent me one back saying, man coach, it’s the best feeling in the world.”