Former El Campo Ricebird Joey Hunt might be sidelined with an ankle injury when the Seattle Seahawks take on the Cincinnati Bengals at home this Sunday to open up the NFL season. However, while he might sit for game one, the bigger deal is the former Wharton County football star is now beginning his fourth season in the NFL.
“Every year is special. It’s a blessing to be able to be there,” Joey Hunt told the Leader-News before leaving for Seattle this offseason. “You can’t take anything for granted, so it’s special every year I’m up here.”
The now four-year veteran battled with rookies and other veteran linemen to try and earn a spot on the Seahawks regular-season roster.
Despite getting injured and not being able to play in the fourth and final preseason game, Hunt did enough to impress the Seahawks.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about it and it’s just something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid,” Hunt said. “It’s pretty wild that I’m getting to do this. It was always far away when I was younger, but now I’m here. It’s definitely a wild experience and I’m loving it. It’s been a blessing.”
During the preseason, Hunt picked up where he left off last year and continued to make an impression on the coaching staff.
In the second preseason game with the Minnesota Vikings, Hunt came away with a hustle play that had coaches and teammates raving about his effort, helping save a possession. Hunt while working with the second-team offense, was blocking on a pass play when a receiver caught and fumbled the ball downfield. Hunt disengaged and sprinted downfield, diving for the football. He didn’t recover the fumble, but his hustle kept Vikings from getting to the ball under the pile.
“I can’t even imagine a guy making a better play on the football field than what he did,” Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll told the media after the game. “He came out of nowhere, blocked the line of scrimmage, full-dead sprint, nothing in his mind but to get after the football.”
“In terms of how we want to play, in terms of effort, in terms of everybody laying it on the line, Joey’s always been that type of player,” starting quarterback Russell Wilson said.
Last year Hunt started two games for the Seahawks and also received rave reviews for his performance, practically against Dallas. Carroll and Wilson, after the game, told the media about how well Hunt performed while stepping in.
“A lot of time, linemen don’t get much praise, so it was pretty cool to get that,” Hunt said.
In his four years in the league, not only does Hunt’s hair stand out, which can normally be seen flowing through the breeze from under his helmet, but he’s also been called upon to play more than just center.
In the NFL, Hunt has played seven different positions. Including every spot on the offensive line, Hunt’s lined up at fullback in his first-ever NFL game and, last year he played some tight end as an extra lineman on bigger packages.
“The more you can do, the more valuable you are,” Hunt said. “As an offensive lineman, you’ve got to be able to play multiple positions. You only get to dress seven offensive linemen on game day. You only get to dress 46 guys, so you’re limited on numbers and depth, so the more I can do the better I am.”
While Hunt might be in the NFL, a dream many kids in El Campo have, the same mindset he had as a Ricebird, has helped him on football’s highest level.
“I feel like I’ve been a blue-collar, hard-working dude to be honest. That’s what I feel is the epitome of El Campo is,” Hunt said. “You go watch our football games, especially when I was in high school, we weren’t always the biggest or the fastest on the field, but we won a lot of games. We won district pretty often. It’s a lot of hard work. The three D’s: desire, discipline, and dedication, those are important (values) to have. I feel like that’s something I have in me and I believe in 100 percent.”
Carroll during his Monday press conference earlier this week announced that Hunt was no longer in a walking boot, but had no further update on his timetable to return.
In Hunt’s career, he’s played in 20 games and started three. Hunt is currently listed second on the team’s depth chart.
Hunt’s brother Cole, who is also played with the Ricebirds, spent the whole preseason with the Carolina Panthers but did not make the final roster.
Joey Hunt is the only current NFL player from Wharton County. In the history of the NFL, 17 players have come from this area. El Campo and Wharton lead with six players each, Boling, East Bernard and Louise have each produced two.