Damon Hunter Jr. was two yards away from living out almost every defensive player’s dream Friday night.
The Columbus North senior safety intercepted a Bloomington North pass at his own 2-yard line and had nothing but green field turf ahead of him. He ran all the way to the end zone for what looked like would be a 98-yard touchdown return.
But Hunter didn’t quite make it to the goal line before letting loose of the football. It went out of bounds at the 2-yard line, and the Bull Dogs scored on the next play.
“I was just a little too anxious and got a little ahead of myself,” Hunter said. “You have to stay humble and just look for the next opportunity, I guess.”
That opportunity may well come for Hunter. He finished second on the team with four interceptions last year.
With his nose for the football, Hunter is likely to get more this season.
“He has a nice combination of instincts, intelligence and athleticism,” North coach Tim Bless said. “He’s the guy that gets us lined up in the back half. He studies the scouting report every week, so he knows his opponents’ tendencies, and that allows him to play fast.”
Hunter was third on the team with 76 tackles last season. This year, he’s second with 27 over the first three games.
Those numbers are impressive, considering he only weighs 165 pounds.
“He’s a very physical football player, a very fundamental tackler, much beyond his physical stature,” Bless said.
Bless said Hunter a really good junior varsity season as a sophomore. That led the coaching staff to believe that he was going to have a nice future, and Bless said Hunter certainly hasn’t disappointed.
Besides being a returning starter at safety, Bless said Hunter is one of his top cornerbacks. The Bull Dogs are playing a lot more man-to-man coverage this year, which allows him to play both roles.
“We want him in both spots,” Bless said. “Often times, we have a free safety over top in man coverage. He plays that role great, being that center field safety, because he’s so instinctive, and he has range because he’s so fast. But he’s also one of our best man-to-man cover guys.”
This spring, Hunter ran track for the first time and had a big season. He was a regional qualifier in the 100 meters and led off North’s 4×100 relay team that set a school record and qualified for state.
Hunter said he is looking at possibly competing in track or football in college.
“It was crazy how much we progressed over the year in track, and it was just awesome making it to state,” Hunter said.
The Bull Dogs are off to a 3-0 start this fall. Two of their wins have come by shutout — a 41-0 victory at Franklin in the season opener and last week’s 49-0 pasting of Bloomington North.
Sandwiched inbetween was a 34-17 win at Columbus East in which Hunter recorded a career-high 15 tackles.
“The defense is solid,” Hunter said. “We’re not giving up many points at all. The offense is tearing it up, and we’re off to a very good start.”
Name: Damon Hunter Jr.
School: Columbus North
Sports: Football, track and field