College Football: St. Xavier’s Josh Hunter taking opportunity and running with it
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media October 24, 2013 10:16PM
St. Xavier's Josh Hunter | Supplied photo
Updated: November 26, 2013 6:32AM
Josh Hunter is determined to make the most of his opportunities.
With St. Xavier running back Nick Pesek nursing an ankle injury, Hunter — a redshirt sophomore and a Thornridge alum — has started the last two games.
In Saturday’s win over Waldorf (Iowa), he stepped up in a big way, running 19 times for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for for the longest time,” Hunter said. “I’m happy with how I’ve played so far and I just want to keep getting better.”
Working hard and waiting for a chance are nothing new for Hunter.
Though he didn’t attract much attention in recruiting coming out of high school, Hunter was determined to play college football. So he reached out to the St. Xavier coaching staff.
“I heard about them being really good from a friend and they were close to home, so I contacted coach Fem (Mike Feminis) and he said they’d be happy to have me on the team,” Hunter said.
Hunter walked on to the football team, redshirted in 2011 and tried to make an impression in practices, playing against players on a squad that went on to win the NAIA national championship that season.
“I started out as the running back on the scout team,” Hunter said. “I knew I had to work my way up. It all came down to a lot of hard work and perseverance. I had to have a strong mind-set.”
Hunter climbed the depth chart and found himself getting the second-most carries on the team last season, when he ran for 397 yards and three touchdowns on 88 attempts.
He’s also earned a partial scholarship. With NAIA programs limited to 24 scholarships, full scholarships are rare.
So far in 2013, Hunter’s carried 45 times for 194 yards and three scores.
With Pesek expected to return soon, Hunter figures to still get chances. At 5-foot-9, 215 pounds, Hunter is a bruising back who likes to run up the middle, a nice complement to the smaller, speedier Pesek.
“Josh is like a bowling ball with his physical style of running,” Feminis said. “To see him come in here as a true walk-on and watch him develop into a solid college running back speaks volumes about Josh’s work ethic and desire to be successful.”
Hunter cites his field vision and his toughness as his biggest strengths as a running back. He said he’d most like to improve his speed.
He has one simple goal for the rest of this season.
“I really want to bust one huge run,” he said. “I just want to make that one huge play. I get a lot of good gains up the middle, but I haven’t broken that long run. That’s what I really want.”