Thursday, 29 October 2020 15:16

Hunt begins graduate school, awaits senior season while recovering from shoulder surgery

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Devon Hunt (34) is eyeing playing at the professional level following his red-shirt senior season. Devon Hunt (34) is eyeing playing at the professional level following his red-shirt senior season. Contributed photo.

RALEIGH — Devon Hunt’s progression as a linebacker at Shaw University improved significantly each year between his freshman and junior seasons.

He became the Bears’ all-time leading tackler in Sept. 2018 during his junior season when he recorded his 197th career tackle in an early-season game against Mars Hill University. His 297 total tackles, which is 101 more than Torrance Nunnelly, still ranks as first in the program’s history.

Hunt, a 2016 graduate of Richmond Senior High School, entered his senior season in 2019 with his eyes set on finishing his undergraduate career while also hoping to play in the National Football League.

With teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Las Vegas Raiders scouting the 6-1, 220-pound linebacker, a shoulder injury, followed by an unprecedented global pandemic, slowed his progression —  for the time being, anyway.

In Shaw’s 2019 season opener against Campbell University, Hunt injured the labrum in his left shoulder. Playing with a brace two weeks later in an away game at Chowan University, Hunt completely tore his labrum, effectively ending his season.

“I tried to make a tackle and that’s when I tore (my labrum) all the way around,” Hunt recalled. “At first I was a little upset but I knew I could take my medical redshirt and it wouldn’t affect me.”

Shortly after suffering his season-ending injury on Sept. 21, 2019, Hunt underwent shoulder surgery to repair his torn labrum. Much like he’d shown his fight and toughness on the football field, his road to recovery was filled with grit and determination.

An injury that his doctors said would require a six-month timeframe to heal before Hunt could do even the most basic football workouts wasn’t so. In just four months, he was back in the weightroom bench pressing 300 pounds and training with his teammates. Hunt posted a video to social media to share his progress.

“When it was four months after my surgery, I was way ahead of schedule. I knew that if I kept moving at that rate I would be fine,” Hunt explained. “My strength coach, Wayne Hall, had injuries like mine before and he knew how to do little things to get me back on the field.

“(Hall) was in my corner,” he added. “I know I have a lot of potential to go to the next level, so I put my trust in him and everything worked out well.”

Now a year post-op, Hunt said his shoulder is “feeling 100 percent” and that he’s not having any problems with it. His focus is to “keep getting stronger and gaining muscle” as he hopes to return to the field soon, which won’t likely be until next year.

The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the conference Shaw competes in, announced in July it was postponing the 2020 season due to COVID-19 to the spring of 2021, which would have been Hunt’s red-shirt senior season.

Just a few days into October, the CIAA cancelled the upcoming season and plans to reinstate football in the fall of 2021. 

“When the pandemic hit, I started to wonder if I was ever going to play again,” Hunt said. “Then when football was canceled until next fall, I thought about how far I had come with my shoulder and wanted to keep playing. I wanted to finish what I started.”

Admitting the extended break due to the coronavirus is taking a toll on his anticipation to get back on the football field, Hunt has shifted his focus back on the classroom. After graduating in May with his undergrad in sociology and criminal justice, Hunt is currently taking graduate classes at Shaw in the university’s education program.

While working toward his master’s degree, which will take between two and three years to complete, Hunt still isn’t giving up on the dream of playing professional football. The two-time All-CIAA first-team linebacker and 2018 conference defensive player of the year hopes to keep the scouts watching as he continues his progression back to the field.

This past spring, Hunt was supposed to workout for NFL scouts in the HBCU Combine. The event, which was scheduled for early March, was canceled due to the virus. He said he hopes to attend the 2021 combine.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot to prove myself these last couple years,” Hunt closed. “My biggest goal since I got hurt is to show that I can come back healthy and play at the same level as before. And I know I can do that and hopefully play at the next level.”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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