A blessing in disguise

Jazzmyn Peterson

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Brushawn Hunter plays his first and possible last game of the year at Salt Bowl. |Chris Lewis

 Some play for fun, some for the competition, but for senior Brushawn Hunter, he plays football in the memory of his mother and for the glory of God.

“My mom died of cervical cancer February 26, 2013. I’ve always had strong faith, but with that happening, my faith only got stronger. It was a tough time and it felt like there weren’t many people around to talk to. But I always had God. He was there for me to talk to from beginning to end. Everyone usually thinks people play for money or to try to get into the big leagues, but I don’t play for myself. When I think back about my mom, whether I’m on the field or at practice, I feel I can’t do it for myself. I do it for her, and I remember that God gave me this gift.”

Moments are made up of past memories, and for Hunter, a specific moment of his football career has shaped how he plays today.

“I was in the tenth grade, and we were playing against Pine Bluff. We were ahead by 14 points in the fourth quarter, and then they scored twice and tied the game, 14:14. There was one minute left, and we had the ball. It was fourth down, 10 yards to go and the ball was coming at me, I looked at KJ Hill on my right and I run a stop and go, and he gave me the go get it look. Then Hayden Lesenberry (quarterback) threw me the ball, and I saw it and in that moment I knew I had to grow up. I knew it was big boy ball now. And I caught it. It scared me, but I still caught it.”

Hunter has been involved in football for most of his life, and as he’s grown, his passion for the game has only strengthened. Whether it’s playing on field, or mentoring on the sidelines, Hunter has made football a daily part of his existence.

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Hunter makes his play, as his adrenaline pushes him forward.|Jake Deen

“Football is something that I do; it’s not who I am. It’s just a look into the talents and abilities that God has given me. When I’m on the field, I allow God to use me in every way, whether it’s scoring a touchdown, blocking or mentoring to the other players. Being out on the field makes me feel like I’m at home. Just having the ball in my hands makes me feel nervous at first, but it’s exciting. The crowd screaming makes me want to try harder.”

At 5 feet 6 inches, 160 lbs, and benching 250 lbs, Hunter is the ideal body type for his receiver and running-back positions. But as a football player, he also has to deal with the possibility of injury.

“I was making a catch and another player fell on my foot, and it was smashed. It ended up getting a contusion to the bone of my foot. It means I have to wait on it to heal,” Hunter said. “Not being out on the field after 23 career starts and just seeing my team out there without me was hard. But I wasn’t really focused on myself. I focused on helping the guys who were out there. Cheering them on when they made a good play and criticizing them when they made a bad play.”

A foot contusion is a deep bruising on the foot and can take up to several weeks to heal. It’s a painful injury that causes swelling and discoloration. Football injuries are common with the tearing of the ACL and concussions being the most common.

Hunter has only been able to play at the Salt Bowl, and the possibility of him playing in any of the upcoming games is a 50-50 chance.

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Hunter leads his team with inspirational words. |Madison Morehead

“Looking at it, I don’t think about the negative. I focus on the positive. I tell the younger players that it’s their time to step up and make the plays, but also that even if they get an injury it doesn’t mean that their out,” Hunter said. “It means that you’re able to take a step back from the game and realize that what you have can be taken away from you at any second.”

While some would sulk around about their injury, Hunter decided to look at the positive side of it and take a more religious viewpoint.

“The doctor told me the possibility of me playing again could go either way, but I trust in God and his plan for me. I trust in God to use me as he sees fit. I’m not stressed or scared about my injury. I think it’s a test to see that if I couldn’t play, would I still be with him, and I will. I want people to see me and see that God is real.”

Though advice usually holds the tone of “shoot for the stars” or “practice makes perfect,” Hunter has taken a different approach to it.

“I try to lead by example. For one thing, I have the right attitude. I stay humble because I know that there is always somebody who’ll be better than me, and that drives me to become stronger in my faith. When I’m off the field I mentor to the younger guys and tell them abut overcoming what they are dealing with right now. I try to teach them that it gets better,” Hunter said.

The experience of football can be spoken about, written about, and it is a popular subject of conversation. But for Hunter, the experience is only something you can understand by feeling it personally.

“Walking out to the tunnel on Friday night is like heaven on Earth. Listening to the announcers and the crowd cheering is a stage for me.”