Friday, October 15, 2021

Walk-on Tyler Hunt's small town roots and raw athleticism fuel path to success

December 12, 2020
<p>MSU wide receiver Tyler Hunt (97) gets tackled by Ohio State defenders in Spartan Stadium on Dec. 5, 2020.</p>

MSU wide receiver Tyler Hunt (97) gets tackled by Ohio State defenders in Spartan Stadium on Dec. 5, 2020.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

It wasn't Monday Night Football on ESPN.

And it sure wasn't a Big Ten football game.

It was a high school game under the beaming Friday night lights in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but Thad Schafer, well, he couldn't really believe what he witnessed seeing Tyler Hunt do.

"I believe it was against Lawton and he was at quarterback and you talk about throwing the right and left arm, I mean, typically a quarterback rolls out to the right or left and they have to do all the things to still throw," Schafer, the head football coach at Gobles High School, said. "Tyler (Hunt) was (on the play) actually under a little bit of distress and actually just moved it to his left hand and threw a touchdown pass for about 15-20 yards."

"It was, at that point, like, 'did he just do what I think he did?', and everyone's like, 'he just threw that with his left hand,'" Schafer said.

It was Patrick Mahomes on Monday Night Football circa 2018, it was Houdini and it was the product of creativity and athleticism that a high school with less than 400 kids wasn't exactly accustomed to having on their sideline.

Well, except Hunt, now a walk-on tight end and special teamer for Michigan State football, wasn't ever on the sideline because he played three varsity sports while at Gobles.

"Tyler was just one of those kids that when he was on the field he was ... one of the best athletes on the field in high school," Schafer said.

From walk-on to walk-in touchdowns

Hunt, who played quarterback, punter, kicker and defense for his high school team before settling in at tight end during this football season, had other offers to play at the Division II and Division III level.

"Coming out of high school, I actually only had two or three offers from schools," Hunt said. "Eastern Michigan reached out to me, Saginaw Valley State, Northern (NMU) and Michigan Tech reached out to me to come punt and play safety for them."

But, instead, he decided to be a walk-on at Michigan State.

"I think I had one email to Michigan State, and I knew I wasn't getting recruited by them," Hunt said. "They (the coaching staff) probably didn't know what my name was at the time. So, I emailed them. I think it was just a mass email that went out to the Michigan State football email and it was just like, 'hey, here's my highlight video. I know you have tryouts coming up and I would love to attend.'" Eventually they reached out to me. Mark Staten, he was the recruiter for my area at the time, I sent him a personal email, and he reached back out to me and he told me the dates of when the tryout was happening."

Hunt, who scored the Spartans' first rushing touchdown of this season, "without an offer, without really any interest came to Michigan State," adding it was more of a financial and family situation.

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The "street walk-on" who no one really knew made the team soon after during the fall of 2017, and the kid from the small school all a sudden was standing on the sideline for a night game against Notre Dame.

Now three years later in 2020, Hunt isn't just a punter or the kid who can throw 70 yards with one hand and 40 with the other, he's a starting player on a Big Ten football team.

"I'm pretty happy with where I am right now," Hunt said. "To be honest I didn't think I was going to see the field much just switching from punter. But I'm happy where things are and can't wait to see what else happens."

For those back in the small town of Gobles, Michigan, getting up on Saturdays and seeing the kid who they heard murmurs about doing it all, well that's the icing on the cake.

"When you can sit down on a Saturday and watch someone from the Big Ten and be able to watch someone that you coached that came from the community playing on Saturdays at that level is, you know, you hear the kids talking about it," Schafer said.

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