ACC, SEC schools among those pursuing Southampton’s Hunt

Published 9:22 am Saturday, May 14, 2016

FILE Southampton’s Tyran Hunt, No. 67, was a team captain during his junior season. Hunt is a nationally ranked recruit for the class of 2017.

Southampton’s Tyran Hunt, No. 67, was a team captain during his junior season. Hunt is a nationally ranked recruit for the class of 2017.

When Southampton offensive tackle/defensive end Tyran Hunt signs his national letter of intent to play football collegiately next February, he’ll become the district’s first athlete to earn a full-ride scholarship at a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) school since 1979 graduate Cyrus Lawrence. But while Lawrence played four years at Virginia Tech, rushing for a then-school record 3,767 yards, Hunt is far more coveted coming out of high school.

The 6-foot-7-inch, 285-pound junior’s offer list includes Power 5 schools Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Vanderbilt. Programs such as Alabama, Florida, Louisiana State, Penn State and Stanford have also shown interest in Hunt, who led the Southampton Indians in tackles last season from the defensive end position while maintaining a 3.6 grade point average.

“I’ve visited most of the schools that have offered,” Hunt said. “Each school is good at academics and just having an overall good program. I want to leave with the full package, so those are the things that stand out to me as I get closer to making a decision.”

Hunt made an official visit to Virginia Tech earlier this year. The Hokies were the first to offer him a scholarship. -- SUBMITTED

Hunt made an official visit to Virginia Tech earlier this year. The Hokies were the first to offer him a scholarship. — SUBMITTED

Hunt shared his top five schools with The Tidewater News on Friday, but said he’d like to inform the respective coaching staffs of their standing before he makes it public. He plans on committing at the start of his senior season.

“My family and I have been talking about how a better opportunity may present itself during my senior year, which is why I’m not going to use all of my official visits when my senior year does come,” he said, “but, I would like to be committed somewhere by September.”

One thing that will factor highly in what school he ultimately attends is what position he’ll play. His current frame is that of athletic defensive end, which is highly coveted in today’s game, but he has the ability to add weight to be a solid blocking tackle.

“I have offers from schools for defensive line, while others are scouting me for offense,” Hunt said. “Honestly, I’m torn between the two. That’s why whenever coaches ask me which I prefer best, I’m like, ‘Whichever one is going to get me on the field faster.’ I like offensive tackle just as much as I like defense, as long as I’m making contact and on the field. Both have their pros and cons, but overall, it’s like tic for tac.”

Another factor is academics, where Hunt will seek to earn a degree in mass communications.

“I’m still trying to find myself; I still don’t know whether I want to be in front of the camera or behind the camera on soundboard,” he said, “but I’m doing my research to find which school has the best program. I’ve also been researching other majors so that I can decide if I eventually want to double major.”

At the end of the day and regardless of location or program prestige, Hunt just wants to find a school that’s best for him.

“Somewhere that is a comfortable fit where I can see myself making an impact,” he said.

Hunt credits his coach at Southampton, Willie Gillus, for putting him in this position, both academically and on the field. He didn’t start playing football until he was in eighth grade, when athletes in the commonwealth are allowed to first participate at the junior varsity level. Hunt mentioned that Southampton’s previous coaching staff, meanwhile, nearly forced him to quit playing altogether.

“It seemed like it wasn’t for me; I didn’t like it,” he said. “But, then, coach Gillus came with the new staff and I felt like I should try it again. Ever since then, it’s been great. He’s a great coach and he teaches us accountability and how to be a man for yourself.”

Gillus, in turn, cited Hunt’s ability to make good decisions as to what sets him apart from other prospects.

“With our young people, making good decisions is a very tough task for a lot of people,” he said. “Tyran has the ability to see what is good and what is bad, and then rationalize what is going to be good — not just for him — but what’s going to be good for his family. Being able to make decisions with others in mind is a big part of maturing as a person and as a football player.

“The big thing for me,” Gillus continued, “is his ability beyond football. I’ve been through it as a high school football player, college football player and professional football player, and the need for these guys to be able to take care of their family is through education. Most of them aren’t going to be able to do it through football, like I was. But giving them opportunities is key. My deal is getting in here every morning and getting on the phone to call everybody I can to tell them how great these kids are. We have a lot of people who think that kids aren’t going to be very good coming from this area.”

Gillus, who played collegiately at Norfolk State and professionally with the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, as well as with the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions, Ottawa Rough Riders and Toronto Argonauts, has built a number of relationships over the years that benefits athletes at Southampton High School like Tyran. In a sport like football that has high coaching turnover, one of Gillus’ former colleagues is just a phone call away.

“What’s made the difference is me calling people and telling them about our program and the kids that we have here,” he said. “But, again, it all goes back to them making good decisions. When they start getting all this fanfare like Tyran is having, he still remains the same person. He’s grounded. His mother and father have done a great job with him. His church family has done a great job with him. He has a strong support system, not only from me and the coaching staff, but when he leaves this building and goes home. Wherever you go in this county, you’re pretty much going to hear the same thing about him. He’s a great young man, and that’s what I demand out of them all of the time.”

Considered a three-star prospect by services such as 24/7 Sports and Rivals, Hunt admits it would be easy to get caught up in the pomp and circumstance of recruiting process. But, he said he’s not one for the extra attention.

“That’s never been the biggest thing for me,” Hunt said. “I just want the people that surround me — my peers, my teammates and the younger people around me — to look at me as an example. ‘If Tyran Hunt can get these scholarships or be blessed to play at the next level, than I can do it, too,’ you know?”