Hunter's Emergence

From Sept. 4, 1999 game program

Wide receiver Mike Hunter arrived at Catholic University in 1995 buried on the depth chart. Last year he began burying defenders and was named second-team All-American.

Hunter's career-high 87 receptions for 1,279 yards ranked third in the nation in receptions per game (8.7) and fourth in receiving yards per game (127.9). He caught a team-high 12 touchdown passes and averaged 14.7 yards per catch . More importantly, the team concluded its second straight 10-1 season with another appearance in the NCAA playoffs.

"Mike's a team player," Cardinal Head Coach Tom Clark said. "He's the kind of guy who, if he caught one or two balls a game but we won the national championship, he'd take that national championship every time."

Hunter came to CUA from nearby Gonzaga College High School, where he played varsity football in 1993-94. As a junior he played behind former Cardinal first-team All-American Jeff Clay, and Malcolm Johnson, who played for Notre Dame. Hunter did not have a noteworthy senior year and was only recruited by CUA, where his mother, Diane, works as an electrician.

After catching just three passes as a Cardinal freshman, Hunter was ineligible to play the following year because of poor grades. He said he and his mother were both disappointed.

"It showed me that all the partying and stuff wasn't important," Hunter said. "I had to hit the books, and that helped me later on in my college career as far as education goes."

Hunter will graduate in December with a degree in education. A native of Washington, D.C., he began an internship with the D.C. Probation Office on Aug. 31., working with juveniles.

Hunter began to show promise in 1997 by catching 23 passes for 372 yards (16.2 avg.) and two TDs. Last year, with Clay's departure, Hunter became the focal point of CUA's passing game. He opened the season with 10 receptions for a career-high 223 yards and two TDs against Greensboro, and later snagged a career-best 12 receptions twice-against Division 1-AA LaSalle and in the playoff-clinching 34-33 overtime victory at Albright. He even threw a 59-yard TD pass in a 31-14 win at Franklin & Marshall.

"Mike's a big-play guy," Clark said. "He has a lot of innate ability and talent. He's a leaper, he's got excellent hands, he's got real good what I like to call ‘court sense,' and he's a tough kid."

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Hunter was asked how he transformed himself into one of the nation's top receivers.

"It was determination, the coaches I've had here at Catholic and also the players that I have had the chance to play with," he said. "Throughout my career, I've always been around a talented group of receivers who I've watched and learned a lot from. I try to take a little bit from each and add it to my game to make myself better."

Said Clark: "I think the combination of him maturing, his work ethic - which is very impressive - our offensive coaches and our offense, which tends to perpetuate quality wide receivers, have all contributed to his rise as a player."

Hunter is not too concerned about playing professionally: "I'll try my best to make it, but if it doesn't come around, I won't be disappointed. I'll have my degree and I'll start my career as a probation officer."