Running To History

Oct. 30, 2003

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Emmett Hunter has a confession to make. In the middle of this record-breaking season, in which he leads the Pioneer Football League and ranks 2nd in Division I-AA in rushing with 147.9 yards per game, Emmett feels compelled to come clean. He has had a little help since week one. Something he takes with him before every home game that pushes him to excel on the field, to bust through the defensive line, carry linebackers on each thigh and shrug off defensive backs like dragonflies. That something sits up in the stands wearing sunscreen on sunny days and a little rain jacket on rainy days, but it is always there for support. That something's name is Ayana, she is nine months old, and her daddy is on the verge of shattering all the JU football rushing records. plays football for JU.

Emmett has another confession to make. He never sleeps. At least it seems that way. From Monday to Friday he wakes before 6:00 a.m. and spends some quiet time reading passages from the bible. Then, he and his wife, Addis, wake baby Ayana, and get her ready for daycare. He eats a little breakfast and kisses his wife goodbye before rushing out the door for 7:00 a.m. meetings with the offensive line. Treatment in the training room starts at 8:30 a.m., film study takes up an hour and then Emmett is off to class. After a bite to eat on the walk back to the Athletic Field House, Emmett spends up to two hours in the weight room to keep his 6-fppt-1, 216-pound body in bruising form. Then it's position meetings at 2:30 p.m. and practice until 6:00 p.m. After a quick shower, Emmett dashes home for a quiet meal with his wife and daughter, reads to little Ayana until she falls asleep and then grabs his books and heads off to the library to study. On a light week he and his wife might watch a movie. Or fall asleep on the couch. Or both.

Emmett Hunter with his wife, Addis, and his 9-month-old daughter, Ayana.

And then Saturday arrives. Addis and Ayana never miss a home game. Ayana likes the balloons, the music and the crowd. Her eyes light up when the people around her stand up and cheer during a big play. More often than not they are cheering because her daddy has made a big play, ran off-tackle for a big gain or broken one, two or three tackles. Emmett's biggest fans sit front and center for it all, and her biggest fan is making some waves in the college football world this season.

Ayana was there when her daddy rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Dolphins' fourth quarter comeback victory over Valparaiso. As he was mobbed by his teammates afterward, with the roar of the crowd in his ears, Emmett's thoughts drifted elsewhere. To the day Ayana was born.

"This may sound sentimental but the high I felt walking off the field that day was like the high I felt when Ayana was born," Emmett says. "Well," he adds with a little grin, "almost." "The way he balances all facets of his life is impressive," says head coach Steve Gilbert. "He knows the time he has now is precious, and I think he makes the most of it with us and with his family."

Emmett is not the same player he was a year ago. Prior to this season, he had rushed for 882 yards and six touchdowns in three years. In the last five games of this season, he has rushed for 893 yards and six touchdowns. Emmett is the first player in JU history to rush for 100 yards in five consecutive games, and with three regular-season games remaining, he has already rushed for 1,183 yards, breaking the single-season rushing record at JU, previously set by Brent Alexander who rushed for 1,089 yards in 2001. Hunter is just 50 yards shy of Alexander's all-time record of 2,090 yards as he continues to direct the best rush attack in JU football history.

"When I look at Ayana I know I can never give up," Emmett says. "I have to give my all, whether it's schoolwork, or football or life. I will never let my wife down and I will never let Ayana down."

Opposing defenses and defensive coordinators will continue to scheme and plot to stop the Dolphins' running game this season, and they will gnash their teeth when Emmett carries two linebackers on his back or picks up four extra yards after getting hit at the line of scrimmage. But they really have only one person to blame. She's nine months old, her name is Ayana, and her Daddy is running to history.