JOHNSON CITY, TN- East Tennessee State strong safety Paul Hunter knew from a young age that he would someday be playing division one college football.
“That’s been one of my big dreams,” said Hunter. “And I’m happy I’m still able to play it.”
It was not an easy road for Hunter to reach that division one dream, playing two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College before transferring to ETSU this spring.
“Very polite young man,” said ETSU safeties’ coach Teddy Gaines. “Does everything I try to tell him. Coming here, bringing some maturity and some leadership, especially to our secondary and to our whole football team.”
Vying for a starting role at the division one level was a challenge Hunter was willing and ready to take on. But the biggest challenge of his life was one he was not ready for.
Hunter grew up in Harvey, Louisiana, about 10 miles from New Orleans on the bank of the Mississippi river. Hunter, like hundreds of thousands of others, was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, evacuating the city a day before the storm made landfall.
He and his family made it out safely, but the destruction he saw when he returned remains in his mind to this day.
“My grandma’s house was completely destroyed,” said Hunter. “And all her pictures were completely destroyed. It’s hard to put into words to be honest. That strikes home right there…That one’s kind of tough.”
The Hunter family started over in Denton, Texas. Paul’s outlet for his pain and memories, the gridiron.
“With football, I didn’t have to think about my life,” said Hunter. “That’s why I love football. I don’t have to think about anything, I just play the game.”
That outlet has become his passion, suiting up on Saturday’s for the sport he dreamed he would be playing in as a child.
“Don’t take anything for granted because in a split second everything can be taken away from you.”