Photo Credit: Dave Kanchel/Virginia Tech Athletics
After a long and winding path since stepping foot on Virginia Tech’s campus, Devon Hunter is finally going to get his chance to start at rover this Saturday against North Carolina. Throughout the locker room, the consensus seems to be that Hunter’s patience and outstanding character have rightfully earned him this opportunity.
“I can’t say enough about [Hunter’s] loyalty, his commitment to this program and to his teammates,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “All he’s done is worked hard to be the best football player and best teammate he can be.”
Since a young age, a healthy attitude has been important for Hunter. As a player who received his first offer in eighth grade, it would have been easy to get a big head. In Hunter’s case, he worked to avoid that mentality.
“I never really paid attention to it, because I always knew where I came from,” Hunter said of all the talk about him in high school. He added that his mother was instrumental in making sure he continued working hard and blocking out the noise.
Despite that, the football world still expected Hunter to get to college and immediately produce as a high 4-star recruit. So, when he struggled to find his footing during his first two years at Virginia Tech, the natural reaction would have been panic.
Instead, Hunter stayed calm and continued to prepare the same way he always had.
“He’s prepared like a starter,” safeties coach Justin Hamilton said. “He’s never complained about not being a starter. He comes to work, wants to go do his job, wants to be coached, wants to get better in every way.”
Part of Hunter’s difficult path included a brief stint at the nickel position last season. Bud Foster and the defense tried to shift him from rover to nickel out of necessity, but the position was not the right fit.
“To be honest with you, maybe it wasn’t fair to [Hunter] last year,” Foster admitted. “We kind of threw him, when we lost Mook (Reynolds) and some guys, kind of threw him to the wolves a little bit.”
Even then, Devon Hunter did not complain. He instead turned to Hamilton, a former player who saw many position switches in his day, for guidance.
“Coach [Justin Hamilton], he was there throughout the way when I was really down about everything,” Hunter said. “He was letting me know, talking to me in my ear about staying in, keep fighting.”
While Hunter is certainly not the first player to be in that position, positive reactions like his are becoming increasingly rare. In an era where many student athletes turn to the transfer portal at the first sign of trouble, Hunter says that thought never even crossed his mind.
“Knowing me, I like to finish where I started,” Hunter said. “I know my mentality. If I committed to a school I want to play for, whatever the circumstance is, I’m going to fight through it regardless of what happens.”
All that patience seems to finally have paid off as Hunter seems to be in line to start on Saturday. Unfortunately, it comes with a cost.
Hunter will be starting in place of Reggie Floyd, who is ineligible for the first half due to a targeting penalty in the Rhode Island game.
“Probably my favorite thing about Devon is he’s excited about getting an opportunity, but he hates the circumstances that they came in,” Hamilton said. “He would never want it to be at the expense of a teammate.”
As difficult of a situation as that is, it may just be the team first mentality that brought Hunter to this point. Now, even if it’s just for one half, it is his time to step up.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” Foster said. “He’s just been tremendous in his approach to getting better and being the best football player he can be.”