It’s not healthy to dwell on but everybody plays the ‘What-if” game from time to time; sometimes at the risk of not fully appreciating what really wound up happening.
Still, it had to cross the minds of Bryant Hornets players, coaches and fans that, even considering what a remarkable season the football team had in 2014, what might have been had Brushawn Hunter not suffered a season-ending injury in the first game, the Salt Bowl against rival Benton?
As a sophomore in 2012, Hunter had rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries, caught 44 passes for 720 yards and six touchdowns. As a junior in 2013, he led the Hornets in rushing (718 yards on 68 carries), pass receiving (507 yards on 34 catches) and scoring (96 points with seven rushing touchdowns and nine TD receptions).
Entering the 2014 season, a lot of the Hornets’ offense was designed around the Hunter. (And it’s actually pretty remarkable how head coach Paul Calley, his staff and the players, stepped back, adjusted and coalesced so quickly — quickly enough that they proceeded to win eight games in a row.)
As it was, the Hornets went 9-2-1 and had eventual State champion Bentonville down early in the fourth quarter of the quarterfinals of the playoffs before losing 17-7.
Would Hunter have helped them win one more game? Two? Three? More?
We’ll never know.
Of course, no one suffered more anguish than Hunter himself, trying to work through the pain, rehabbing, having his foot checked and re-checked. He even tried to make a comeback at one point but a play or two was all he could stand.
Still, he tried to stay positive. In his Senior Profile on BryantDaily.com, Hunter said,
“I don’t really look at it, the negative side. I look at the positive side. You just take a step back from the game, realize things that you have that are good. It just shows that one play can be your last and that, when you’re out there on the field, just play the best of your ability just knowing that one play could end it all.”
Fortunately, Hunter, the son of Bruce Hampton and Larisa Hunter, hasn’t played his last. On Wednesday, Feb. 4, he signed to continue his football career and education at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock.
“Even though he was injured all year, he still can contribute I think a lot to a football program,” said Calley. “Arkansas Baptist has offered him a chance to attend their university and get a two-year degree. Hopefully, after that, he’ll be able to continue playing at a higher level.”
That’s Hunter’s dream, major college football and, perhaps beyond.
“I originally had OBU and Henderson who were recruiting me with an offer from Henderson,” he related. “I had committed to Henderson starting off but then Arkansas Baptist got in touch with me. I realized what I really wanted to do. So I got in contact with them.
“It’s basically junior college for two years,” Hunter added. “I plan to go there for two years and to work my way up and eventually to move on to a bigger school.”
For the time being, it sounded like the ABC staff was glad to have a play-maker of Hunter’s caliber.
“Coach (Rontrelle) Bailey said that he felt like I could come in and change the program around,” Hunter reported. “He basically said, ‘We are ready for you to be here, ready to go to work.’”