Hunter’s long road leads him to Southern Miss football field

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 31, 2007

Chico Hunter’s road to the Southern Miss football team took a one-year detour to Tennessee, but he has landed in Hattiesburg and will play for the Golden Eagles starting this season.

Hunter qualified academically and is taking two classes this summer and getting on a weight program at the school, he said Wednesday afternoon.

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&#8220I’m just so glad to be here,” Hunter said. &#8220I just need to get adjusted to college life.”

Hunter had a standout junior season in high school, earning The Vicksburg Post’s Defensive Player of the Year award and gaining much attention from football programs all over the Southeast.

Two games into his senior year at WC, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and was lost for the remainder of the year. A promising basketball career also ended with the knee injury, even though Hunter had his mind made up to play football.

Despite his injury, Southern Miss signed him in 2006 as the latest addition to a defense predicated on speed and fearlessness. His grades, though, were not there.

He attempted to gain eligibility through the rest of his senior year, then left Vicksburg for Chattanooga, Tenn. He had family living there and saw it as a way to get away from some of the negative influences that followed him around his Kings neighborhood in Vicksburg.

&#8220It’s so easy to get in trouble when you live there,” Hunter said. &#8220It’s so easy to get caught up in negative things that it would take a lifetime to get out of.”

He spent the year in Chattanooga working on academics and staying in physical shape by running in the mountains and working out at a training facility that centers on speed and agility.

Hunter strapped on 15 pounds of muscle and said he is in the best physical shape of his life. Practice has yet to start at Southern Miss and he is not sure how he will do once the pads get on. The instincts and desire, he said, are still there, but it will be nearly two years since he has put on full pads and had contact drills.

Once described by Warren Central coach Robert Morgan as a &#8220slobber-knocking sophomore” for his ability to light up his opponents, Hunter said that part of the game never leaves.

Southern Miss defensive coordinator Jay Hopson, who played at Warren Central and recruited Hunter, said the coaching staff is excited to have the future safety in the program.

&#8220We’re tickled to death,” Hopson said.

All-Star Classic will be local affair

Saturday’s Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Football Classic in Mobile will have a unique Vicksburg feel to it.

Warren Central kicker Eric Richards is the lone Warren County representative on Mississippi’s roster. Referees Hugh Guest, James Judge and Jerry Miller will make up half of the officiating crew. Former Ole Miss great running back Kayo Dottley, the only Rebel running back to record two 1,000-yard rushing seasons, is the honorary captain for the Mississippi squad.

Johnny Mims, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Coaches, will be on hand, and so will Ricky Mitchell. The Red Carpet Bowl chairman will make his television debut as a game analyst. Mitchell is the play-by-play man for Warren Central football on River 101, and has also called baseball games and been a public address announcer.

The game will not be televised locally, Mitchell said.