It would have been easy for Hunter Wyant to have played the role of a spoiled brat and pack his gear up and done something other than to have played football for North Central last fall.
Instead, the 6-foot-3 ½-inch Wyant took the news of his being moved from quarterback to wide receiver on offense and safety on defense in stride and went on to have a strong final campaign for Louis Clyburn’s Knights.
For his efforts, Wyant earned himself an offer to continue his academic and football-playing pursuits at Palmetto Prep Academy (PPA) in Columbia where he will be asked to play, ironically, quarterback. The North Central senior made his verbal commitment to the school official on Wednesday afternoon by signing a letter of intent with a post-graduate program which exposes players to four-year colleges throughout the country, according to head coach Wes Horton.
Having served as a backup to starting quarterback Grayson King as a sophomore at NC in the 2012 season, Wyant was the opening night starter as a junior in 2013. He led the Knights in passing completing 67 of his 154 passes for 750 yards and eight touchdown tosses. He also ran one in for a score.
When the Knights opened practice for their 2014 campaign, Wyant was informed that his talents could best serve the team at wide receiver as well as at safety with classmate John Bowers moving under center. Ever the good soldier, Wyant never flinched or moaned about not being "the man." Rather, he posted strong numbers as he finished the season with nine catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He also was called on to attempt one pass, which he completed for a gain of 15 yards.
Defensively, Wyant rang up 38 tackles with nine solo stops with an interception.
Wyant said he never gave feeling sorry for himself or his plight a second thought. This was not about him, he said. And to this day, he said the change in his role made him a better player, if not an even stronger person and teammate.
"I’m glad I got to play all those other positions, like safety and wide receiver," he said after signing with the Minutemen, "because it taught me that it’s not all about being the quarterback and being some star player or anything like that. It’s about doing what’s best for your team. It’s about making that sacrifice for your team."
Nobody appreciated the sacrifice made by Wyant more than the Knights’ coaching staff which, at season’s end, selected him as the recipient of the program’s teammate award for putting his team before himself.
"This past season," Clyburn said when talking about Wyant, "when we made the decision for Hunter to play safety and receiver and not play quarterback, it had very little to do with his ability, mechanics or, anything like that. It was just what was best for our football team at the time. Honestly, in talking with both of the coach Dortons (head coach Wes and his brother and offensive coordinator Nathan) at Palmetto Prep, that was one of the things which was so attractive about Hunter; that maturity level you have to have to be able to make a position change like that, as a senior, because it was best for your football team. That was impressive to them that he was able to do that and being a leader.
"Hunter’s attitude was just that good, and it was infectious amongst our team because we moved a lot of guys around last year. It was that unselfish attitude which kind of spread throughout our team and, hopefully, it will continue for years to come within our football program."
Wyant was the lone camper at NC’s first youth football camp when Clyburn took over the reins to the program six years ago. The NC staff started working with him then on his footwork with a long-range goal of making him a quarterback. Now, Wyant has found exactly what he was looking for in a post high school home during his visits to PPA. More than just the school, though, he liked the people who will be his coaches in Columbia.
"What I liked most about it was the atmosphere they put around you," he said of his decision. "All the coaches there were players not too long ago and they try to treat you the way that they wanted to be treated as players. That was probably the best thing about it."
Wyant was extended an offer to join the Minutemen after attending their combines which were run by the coaching staff. During the course of his workouts, Wyant told Nathan Dorton that he was willing to play wherever he was needed on the field. Dorton would have none of that talk.
"He has all the tools you need to play quarterback," Dorton said. "I kind of joked with him when he said, ‘I’ll play wherever, Coach.’
"I told him, ‘Hunter, you’re a quarterback. Live it and breathe it and let’s train you and develop you to be that’ because I really think he can be a great one at the I-AA or D-2 level."
Dorton said one thing he could not teach Wyant was to be tall enough to see over a defense. With height not an issue, Dorton worked on other facets of the game with the former Knight and liked what he has seen so far.
"He’s very accurate and he’s very smart. He’s a sponge and is eager to learn," Dorton said of Wyant. "I’ve worked with him three times and, each time, he’s gotten drastically better. Just seeing that progress this early before we’ve even stepped on the field is awesome to see."
Wyant said playing quarterback took some getting used to but added that he is excited about the chance to step back under center.
"It feels like it’s coming back naturally," Wyant said of playing quarterback again. "Going to the combines, it feels natural; I feel comfortable doing it.
"Footwork is the biggest thing for a quarterback. You throw with your legs, not with your arms and I’m going to have to get back into doing that."
The Minutemen operate out of spread option offense. Wyant said his ability to get rid of the football quickly and reading defense makes him a good fit for the scheme. Clyburn said, oddly enough, Wyant’s playing positions other than quarterback last fall should come in handy at the next level.
"I know almost everybody in college football these days has a quarterback running play in their system and Hunter is very athletic," said the NC head coach. "And having been through a season where he has been the ‘hitter’ will only help make him better. Those are the things which Coach Dorton and the staff at Palmetto Prep really liked about Hunter."
Wyant said he believes he can go in and get the job done with his arm and his legs. "I guess you could say that people don’t know what I’m going to do because it’s hard to figure me out," he said of his style. "I can throw and I can run, too. It looks awkward, very awkward, when I run but I can make things happen. It might be ugly, but I can make things happen."
As he prepares to leave home and be out on his own for the first time, Hunter Wyant said another thing which a field general must possess is the ability to make good decisions. That, he said, comes with age and experience and he already sounds like a young man who knows what he wants to accomplish and is taking the right steps to make his dreams come true
"I believed that I’ve matured a lot," he said. "Going to the next level, I’m going to have go off there by myself and make decisions on my own; I’m starting to do that now. I’m just glad that I’m blessed enough to be able to do it."