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Hard work pays off for El Campo's Hunt

By aalvarado
Feb. 1, 2012 at 11:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.

El Campo's Joey Hunt makes a tackle for Team USA in the International Bowl on Wednesday. Hunt signed with TCU in a ceremony for the game's participants earlier in the day.

AUSTIN - El Campo senior Joey Hunt is used to laboring in the trenches.

Some football fans are too busy following the ball to notice Hunt paving the way for running backs or keeping opposing guards off the linebackers behind him.

But, for a lineman, the ecstasy a running back enjoys on an ankle-breaking touchdown run, he feels on more simple, unnoticed plays.

"A pancake is a good thing to seal on the offensive side of the ball," Hunt said. "Or if you seal the edge real well and they break a sweep off of you."

On Wednesday, high school football fans and players from all over the globe took notice of Hunt. The senior was one of 54 players who represented the U.S. under-19 football team in the 2012 International Bowl.

The International Bowl is an all-star game that pits the U.S. against players and coaches representing 19 different countries.

The World team captured a 35-29 win before a crowd of 3,285 at the Round Rock ISD's Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex.

"They're the best competition I've ever played in a game and it was really exciting to come out here and represent the U.S.A.," Hunt said.

Hunt, played defensive tackle in a 3-4 scheme, recorded two tackles and quarterback hurry.

The game was the conclusion of a life-changing day for Hunt. On Wednesday morning, he signed a letter of intent to play at TCU.

"Joey was one of our first commitments," said TCU head coach Garry Patterson. "He's very strong and smart. He's a winner and someone we liked from the beginning."

Hunt was a defensive end and tight end growing up, but when he started growing into his 6-foot-3, 285-pound frame, a move to offensive and defensive tackle was imminent.

For Hunt it didn't matter where he lined up, as long as he had a chance to do what few Class 4A players do, start on both sides of the ball.

"Being just a sophomore, I wouldn't say 'No that's not what I'm playing,'" Hunt said. "I played where coach told me to play."

Not only did Hunt play, he excelled. In his career he tallied 16 sacks, forced 15 fumbles and recovered 10 and totaled 240 pancake blocks and allowed only one sack.

He earned the first-team All-District 23-4A honors and was named all-state on the defensive line as a junior and offensive line as a senior.

"It's a testament to his attitude and heart," said El Campo head coach Bob Gillis. "This is my 34th year and he's the best lineman I've coached."

Both teams made their way to Austin on Friday and after a few days of practice played the game.

It didn't take long for Hunt to earn the respect of the U.S. coaching staff.

"He does everything you want him to do with intensity at all times," said U.S. defensive line and Round Rock Stony Point head coach Craig Chessher. "He's a coach's dream. I was thrilled to meet him and look forward to keeping up with him the next few years.

Colleges started sending letters and questionnaires to Hunt after his sophomore season.

Hunt had been to TCU football games and watched some of the team's practices when they were preparing for the 2011 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.

He verbally committed to TCU and made the move official during a signing ceremony for the game's players.

"If TCU's on TV, I'll be watching," Gillis said. "I'm sure more sooner than later he'll be playing. I think TCU's got a great football player."

Hunt was more than his a star on the field at El Campo, he's also on the school's student council and is seventh in his graduating class.

"I work out year-round, watch football, play football video games, but I do a little school work too," Hunt said.

Although linemen may be anonymous to some fans, Gillis said Hunt was a team leader. Gillis knows someone has big shoes to fill next season, figuratively and literally.

"If I could redshirt him, I'd redshirt him and bring him back," Gillis said. "Unfortunately, I can't."

Although Team USA lost the game, Hunt is looking forward to moving to Fort Worth and playing for the Horned Frogs.

"My head's been spinning around just thinking about different things and knowing that I'm going to be at TCU," Hunt said. "I'm going to be somewhat of a grown up now."

GAME NOTES: The World team's win was its first in the three-year history of the all-star game. Auburn commit Gimel President (Mount Pleasant, S.C.) was named the U.S.'s Most Valuable Player. Anthony Coombs from the University of Manitoba in Canada was named the World's MVP. Coombs ran for 147 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. President had a total of four tackles, three of which were unassisted for loss. Jarred Solomon (Bishop Gorman, Las Vegas) went 5-for-8 passing and led the U.S. with 105 yards and a touchdown.

Frank Epitropoulos, an Ohio State commit, caught three passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Will Finch (Nelson Lords High, Canada) led the World with 169 yards and two touchdowns. Jahlani Gilbert-Knorrean from the University of Saskatchewan was the World's leading receiver with 125 yards and a touchdown.

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