Mizzou RB Tyler Hunt's story will make you smile
Last year’s feel-good story come full circle, Michael Sam, drew global attention as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year became the first openly-gay player on an NFL roster.
This year’s feel-good story won’t get any attention at all outside the state of Missouri and its fan base. But it’s plenty capable of inducing a smile.
Tyler Hunt was the Missouri Class 1 Player of the Year as a senior quarterback from Westran High School in Huntsville, Mo., in 2010, also playing as a defensive back and punter.
Hunt threw for nearly 5,000 yards and rushed for more than 5,000 during his high school career, accounting for 127 touchdowns and finishing third on the state’s career list for total offense. As a pitcher, an elbow injury as a senior prevented him from demolishing the state record for strikeouts.
He signed a scholarship offer to play baseball at Meramec Junior College, planning to show off his healthy arm and parlay it into a Division I scholarship or get drafted by an MLB team in a few years. All the while, he dreamed of playing football for the Missouri Tigers, an hour’s drive South in Columbia.
Gary Pinkel’s staff gave him a tease by contacting him earlier in the summer before his freshman season, but as so often happens, the big fish in the small pond became an afterthought. Until it wasn’t.
Despite what Hunt called some miscommunication, the team offered him preferred walk-on status just before fall camp in 2011. To some, a full scholarship and a solid baseball trajectory would be enough to pause and think. Hunt immediately gave up the money to pay his own expenses and compete for a low-tier depth chart slot at Missouri.
More than three years later, Pinkel rewarded Hunt, now a junior running back, with a football scholarship.
“It’s big. I’ve been striving for it since I got here. I mean, I had a huge high school career, but kind of got missed in the recruiting process,” Hunt told a few media outlets Monday.
“I’ve got a lot more to achieve. I never felt like I was a walk-on.”
Hunt has one carry for one yard during his Missouri career, but he’s in line for more this season. He’s a significant special teams player and should start on the kickoff, kickoff return and punt teams.
He may eventually revisit his baseball career, but it’s rare for a player in his mid-20s to suddenly become an MLB-worthy commodity after several years off. For now, he’s focused on the gridiron.
“He can help our football team win,” said Pinkel, who informed Hunt of the decision on Saturday.
It’s a one-year scholarship, meaning Hunt isn’t promised anything for his senior season. But with his financial aid package apparently set to expire, according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, he’ll embrace the help.
“I was trying to figure out how I was going to buy groceries and pay rent,” Hunt said. “My mom and dad just screamed as soon as they got the phone call.”
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, Hunt says he currently weighs 220. He’s more of a brute than some of Missouri’s swift backs.
“I’m one of the stronger ones in the weight room, throughout the whole team, so I feel like I bring a little more power. (I) feel like I can break more tackles and hopefully I got the speed,” Hunt said, according to Rivals.com.