Hunter a Model of Persistence and Effort

He came to BYU as a walk-on from Snow Junior College. Now a senior, Mike linebacker Shane Hunter can finally say all the film study, time in the weight room, practice squads and years of working his way up through the various team levels are finally paying off.

During his sophomore year, Shane Hunter was named the most valuable member of the scout team. This Academic All-MWC performer has been a quiet yet steady contributor for the Cougars, seeing action in all 13 games last season. As fall camp winds down, Hunter has stepped it up and even intercepted a pass during Tuesday's practice.

"We got pressure on Jake [Heaps] and he wasn't able to zing it in there, so it kind of floated a little bit and I was able to step in front," Hunter said. "I saw that end zone and I got very excited."

Hunter had every right to be excited; he can always look back and tell the tale about how he intercepted a pass from the nation's top prep quarterback. Hunter, a contradiction incarnate comprised of humility and gridiron toughness, has attributed his steady progress and fall camp success to others.

"I would definitely attribute it to the coaching that's happened," Hunter humbly mentioned. "I'm not the biggest or the fastest guy out there, so it has to be something else."

Sure, at 5 feet 11 inches and 232 pounds, Hunter may not be the most imposing linebacker. However, throughout fall camp he has been a player that just won't go away. Hunter has been a solid and steady contributor in the middle of the defense, yet still deflects any credit passed his way.

"No, it comes down to understanding the system," Hunter said. "I mean, in this defense you need to know your assignment really well, and when you know it in a way that's expected, you can just go out there and fly around. You're not thinking as much but can just play the game, and I've just picked up the defense after a lot of hard work. Really it's just that and now it's just going out there and playing football.

"The defense will put you in position to make the play," he continued. "What you have to do is make sure you take care of your part. You have to know your position really well and know what the position asks of you, and like I said, once you do that the defense will naturally put you in position to make the play. If people would have saw me two or three years ago, it would have been a different story."

The story of Hunter's football career prior to entering BYU isn't all that shabby. He was a team captain his senior year in high school, and was an all-area and all-region player out of Idaho Falls. He was named the 2002 5A Defensive Player of the Year and lettered in basketball and baseball. Prior to coming to BYU he played a year at Snow College, served a mission, and then played another year at Snow.

Having not been recruited out of Snow Junior College, Hunter decided to preserver in the sport he loved. He decided to put his unconventional linebacker attributes to good use at BYU and walked on.

"I just felt like this was the place for me and my family, and ever since then it's been a great time and I love it," Hunter said. "I love the teachings and the spiritual aspect and how we play defense here. It's an effort-based defense and it's not, 'Oh, we have great athletes and we're going to go out there and just win with that.' They push us to be our best and to try our hardest and to never give up on a play. I love that."

Playing behind the kind of talent that was in the program and seeing the kind of talent coming in would have discouraged most, and perhaps led some walk-ons to just walk away. But Hunter's never-give-up, never-surrender mentality has carried him through the tough times, as have his teammates.

"I think we all get along well and we're all friends," Hunter said. "We hang out in the locker room and hang out outside of football. We just enjoy each other and I think that translates on the field. We all play together and don't sit there and worry about, 'Well, what's he going to do?' or 'This is what he needs to do.' I know what everybody else is doing and I know what I need to do. We trust each other and just handle the pressure together.

"I mean, obviously it's a competition, but it's a competition for each of us to get better to work forward as a team. That way, come September 4th, whoever is in there is ready to go knowing full well that inside linebacker is a tough spot. A lot of people get dinged up and nicked throughout the season, so everyone is going to see some time this year. You have to be ready to go whenever your number is called."

In looking back over what he's learned and experienced in the sport of football, Hunter paints a picture of what's expected and gives some sound advice to those that are thinking of coming to BYU as a walk-on middle linebacker.

"You have to love to hit and love to play football," Hunter said. "In the 3-4 defense as a Mike, and even a Buck linebacker, you're taking on linemen a lot. You have to be aggressive and strong and be able to take on those pulling linemen. You have to hit the fullback as well. So you have to have that mentality that you got to get in there and hit people.

"At the same time you have to be able to read quickly and see what's coming. You have to see if it's a play action and find your passing responsibilities. As a Mike [linebacker] it's definitely about getting those front seven lined up, and at the same time we have to listen to the safety who is giving us the safety checks. It's quite a bit to handle out there, and luckily for me I've been out there for a couple of years now. So I understand what's going on, and even still something happens really fast and you might miss something.

"There's a lot that goes into it and that's why having time helps a lot – time to learn and study film to see guys like Cameron Jenson and the Kelly Poppingas of the world. All of those things have helped me a ton to know what's expected and to learn the culture here. You just have to go out there and give 100 percent on that play and just do everything you can to try and be successful."

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