Bragging rights are nice to have in the National Football League.
Kendall Hunter has those rights thanks to the success of the John Tyler Lions.
The current San Francisco 49ers running back was the guest speaker for the 19th Annual “Cujo” Football Banquet Thursday at St. Louis Baptist Church Family Life Center.
In 2012, JT finished as undefeated district champions, reached the 4A Division I state semifinals and posted a 13-2 overall record.
“In the NFL everybody has to brag about where they came from,” Hunter said. “I (tell guys) I am from East Texas, where football is at. A lot of guys were saying they keep hearing about John Tyler.
“It makes me proud knowing I can brag about my team.”
Hunter finished with 371 yards rushing and two touchdowns as his season was halted in week 12 because of an injury.
Injuries are something Hunter is accustomed to overcoming, starting in high school.
It began in high school when Hunter suffered a broken ankle that caused him to miss his junior season after rushing for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore.
“They said I probably wouldn’t walk the same … but I kept praying about it and working hard and came back believing. I came back and broke Earl Campbell’s record and went on to Oklahoma State.”
In college another injury suffered his sophomore season caused Hunter to entertain thoughts of foregoing his senior season for the NFL draft.
“I got a stress fracture that kept me out until the (Cotton) Bowl game and I rushed for 100 yards in the bowl game … a lot of guys were saying to me to stay for my senior year and keep working harder. I did that and I was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.”
Hunter said he learned quickly about the cutthroat business of the NFL and how quickly things change. He added that is why education is so important.
“When I first got to San Fran for my first training camp; that is when I found out it was a business. There was a first-round pick and it was his second year and we were doing stretching and they came and got him off the field. I was like what happened to him? Found out he was cut.
“You have to take care of every opportunity and that is why you have to get that education. That is big. That is (the most important thing).”
JT coach Ricklan Holmes echoed Hunter’s thoughts when discussing his seniors. Along with what they accomplished on the field, they had a combined grade point average of 3.72. Also, 13 Lions signed letters of intent for football on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
A special award was given to Faye Baxter-Jones, who is retiring from the John Tyler Booster Club after 21 years of service.
Following a highlight video produced by scolodtv sports, plaques and/or trophies were given to every John Tyler varsity football player, trainer and line guard by members of the John Tyler Moms’ Club along with a special award given to the players by Holmes for reaching the semifinals.
Lions offensive line coach Will Smith then stepped to the podium and began the team awards starting with Offensive Lineman of the Year: Cornelius Davis. Chris Mobley was named Defensive Lineman of the Year. The rest of the awards were: Darion Flowers, Receiver of the Year; Richard Gipson, Linebacker of the Year; DeQuante Woods, Running Back of the Year; Elliot Hart, Defensive back of the Year; Noe Diaz and Porfirio Benitez, Special Teams Players of the Year; Fred Ross, Offensive Player of the Year; and Tyus Bowser, Defensive Player of the Year.
The CUJO award, given to an unsung hero of the team, was given to Kavante Jefferson.
When announcing the final award, Holmes needed a moment to compose himself before calling out the recipient’s name.
“Every college coach that came through my door, I said this young man can play quarterback (at the next level),” Holmes said. “Well, he will be attending the University of Houston where he will be playing quarterback. Our Most Valuable Player is Greg Ward.”
A quote by Hunter seemed to sum up JT’s season and the night as a whole.
“In order to get what you want, you have to work for what you want,” Hunter said. “I am happy about what you accomplished and this program has come a long way.”
Notes: The master of ceremonies for the evening was Channing Curry with dinner provided by St. Louis Baptist Church.
19th Annual Cujo Football Banquet
Offensive Lineman of the Year — Cornelius Davis
Defensive Lineman of the Year — Chris Mobley
Wide Receiver of the Year — Darion Flowers
Linebacker of the Year — Richard Gipson
Running Back of the Year — DeQuante Woods
Defensive Back of the Year — Elliot Hart
Special Teams Players of the Year —Noe Diaz, Porfirio Benitez
Offensive Player of the Year — Fred Ross
Defensive Player of the Year — Tyus Bowser
CUJO Award — Kavante Jefferson
Most Valuable Player — Greg Ward