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Varis Leaphart/Special to DawgNation
4-star DE Derick Hunter Jr. is definitely trending toward playing for UGA.

4-star DE Derick Hunter may already have bond with UGA stronger than his ‘Rambo’ nickname

Jeff Sentell

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The Intel tonight calls for a recap of an in-depth conversation with 4-star DL prospect Derick Hunter from Florida. His story, combined with his unique perspective on life, is uncommon. 

Here’s a prediction: Derick Hunter will remind folks of the time when Malik Herring was a recruit.

That’s not because Hunter plays on the defensive line and is a strong communicator. Hunter, like Herring, already sounds like the most committed uncommitted prospect who is being heavily recruited by UGA.

There are many ways to shape his story, but we will start with a quick three. The first will be to call attention to his Twitter profile. It reads #GODFIRST and #FAMILY and notes his 4-star status as a prospect.

Derick Hunter-UGA recruiting
Does the Twitter bio for Derick Hunter reveal anything about which school he’s leaning to? Why, yes it does. (Derick Hunter Jr./ Twitter)

But there’s more for a recruit the 247Sports composite lists as the nation’s No. 15 strongside defensive end for 2019.

It says “committed to ATD” and that line is paired with a dog emoji. Hmm. Hunter said it stood for “Attack the Day” and said he also added a “Dog” emoji there.

To recreate that statement in the most accurate manner, it would include a lot of drawl and inflection in the gut of that word.

The way he said it, the only way to spell it would be D-A-W-G.

The plot thickens.

Derick Hunter knows what ‘Attack the Day’ means to UGA football

Is Hunter aware that “Attack the Day” is one of the major rallying cries for UGA football under coach Kirby Smart? The 6-foot-6, 285-pound junior replied he did understand that.

“I definitely know what it means,” Hunter said.

He’s already a very large young man. His size and weight will jump out for any prospect who rates as a strongside DE. He very likely will be too big to play that position in the SEC.

Is he a future 3 technique tackle? What would be his best position?

“I’m a Dawg,” Hunter said, repeating the verbal pattern of his previous use of that word. “I will play anywhere. Yes, sir. I’m going to play that ‘Dawg’ position in college.”

When Hunter describes his life, he takes the conversation through some dark days. It goes beyond not drinking the water that comes out of his faucet.

The taste of that product is just off. Way off.

“I’ve been through tough things in life,” he said. “I’ve been through the struggle. I still go through the struggle. So when it gets tough, I just deal with it. I’ve never once complained a day in my life about not having food on the table some nights. Some nights sleeping in motels. Going to school wearing flip-flops. I never once complained about having cable or not having cable or anything. So why should I complain about playing this game of football when the game gets tough? I’ve been through tough. I’ve lived through tough.”

Those are some lows. He shared what it was like to go to school with some dirty clothes. It is just sometimes what he had to do.

He actually didn’t even go through his darkest day. So what was his brightest day?

“You mean the best day of my life?” Hunter asked. “Aw, man. Getting that scholarship (offer) from the University of Georgia.”

That just came on Feb. 14.  It hasn’t even been 10 days.

“It was crazy,” Hunter said. “I didn’t take me that long to make up my mind about where I wanted to go. I already knew I wanted to be in Athens.”

The top school for Derick Hunter? No need to read between these lines

Hunter might have to hold off on committing to Georgia. He has an idea in mind he’s fashioned with his father. It was his father’s dream.

But he’s going to be tempted when he takes his first unofficial visit to UGA on March 20.

“I love Georgia,” Hunter said. “I don’t even have any other top school. Georgia is number one. Georgia is number one. Period. Point blank. All the other schools are just there to be there. Georgia is number one.”

He already dreams of the atmosphere playing for Georgia on Saturdays. He would be in the SEC.

Hunter will also be playing for the team he spilled his heart out rooting for in the 2018 playoffs. When Sony Michel made those plays, it fired him up.

“I feel like I can go there and focus on my education and football,” the aspiring business major said. “I feel like it is the best place for me. It is just the best place for me.”

He seems convinced Athens will be the spot. Before his first visit. Yet that won’t fit into the plan right now.

“It has always been a dream for my dad to see me commit at an All-American game,” Hunter said. “So if  I get an invite to the (All-American Bowl), which is my favorite game. or the Under Armour game, I’d like to do it then. If it was the Under Armour game, then I might like that even more. Because my whole family would be able to make it to that one. We really want to commit at an All-American game. That’s our goal.”

Is he a walking commitment that just hasn’t pulled the trigger yet? Could he be a silent commit? Hunter made it sound like he was engaged to be married. He just needs to walk down the aisle at the All-America game.

“You might be right,” he said. “You just might be right.”

Hunter made it sound like he might be tempted to make an audible to that plan on the first visit.

“It is going to be hard,” Hunter said. “It is crazy because I really want to announce but I also want to do it with my Dad like we dreamed about at that (All-American) game.”

Will the delay hurt Georgia’s chances with Derick Hunter?

It sounds like UGA might have to wait on this one. Hunter was once committed to Miami. Does this give another school time to change his mind?

“It is kind of hard for that now,” Hunter said. “Every day constantly every member of the (UGA) staff is hitting me up. Some of these schools call me once a week to try and build that relationship. They say let’s talk once a week and let’s build a relationship. It is not like that with Georgia. It is an everyday thing. I’m talking to different people from the staff. Not just one member. It is not just one dude I hear from at Georgia. It is just the honest and what seems like automatic love from the Georgia staff that makes me feel like a top priority.”

“I know I am a top priority when Kirby Smart texts me every day or every other day. That’s crazy because other head coaches do not text me every day. They will just send me little things, but I can sit down and have a conversation with Kirby Smart. The future is bright at Georgia and I love what is going on there.”

Tray Scott-UGA recruiting
Defensive line coach Tray Scott has already played a major role in Derick Hunter’s recruitment. (Jeff Sentell/ DawgNation)

Smart isn’t even Hunter’s go-to guy on the UGA staff.

“That’s coach [Tray] Scott,” Derick Hunter Jr. said. “That’s my man right there.”

Scott has personally connected to Hunter because Scott has shown he cares. But there is also an employment history in common.

Derick Hunter Sr. works at Wal-Mart. He has for 15 years. It just so happens that Scott’s mother worked at Wal-Mart for 20-plus years.

“My dad is a hard-working man,” Hunter Jr. said.  “He’s the type of dude who will take any shift or any extra shift just so he can bring home more money. He doesn’t like taking days off. My dad doesn’t make a single excuse about anything. Being behind on bills. Not having a lot to eat at night. He doesn’t make an excuse for anything. All he says are things are going to be all right. So when it came to football stuff, I was like why should I cry or make excuses? I’m not built like that. My breed is to be a man. My daddy raised me to be a man.”

The special connection between father and son

Hunter hopes to execute his father’s dream in regard to that commitment plan. That’s because of a special bond. Those two watched Georgia in the playoffs together.

He wants to do that for his father. That seems like it would be a common thread for any son to do, but there’s more to consider here.

It is because Derick Hunter Sr. was there for his son on his worst day. Hunter lived with his mother for a time, but then he lost her.

The Dunbar High School standout lost his mother Ava Lane in a car accident. He was only 11 years old.

“She meant the world to me,” Derick Hunter Jr. said.

Derick Hunter-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
Derick Hunter Jr. sounds like he is already very strongly considering playing football for UGA. Very, very strongly considering. (Varis Leaphart/Special)

When that happened, his father was right there. Immediately.

“My dad came right then and scooped me right up,” He said ‘Look, I wasn’t there at the beginning but I am going to be here now. Things might be hard but I am going to be there for you’ and he has always been there for me. He’s always been my role model. He wasn’t that Dad trying to slide out of my life. He was always trying to get in my life before then with what was going on between my parents. I looked up to him.”

Hunter said his father was quite the athlete in his day. But he lost the chance to take advantage of his opportunities.

So when Scott wanted to reach out to his father, it meant something. Scott was the first coach to do so.

“They’ve built a bond with each other,” Derick Hunter Jr. said. “Sitting there talking with him, my dad really felt that same good vibe I got from coach Scott.”

His father was outside when he first spoke to Scott. When he came back in the house, he said something substantial.

“He said he wouldn’t be mad at me if I was to commit (to Georgia) right now,” Derick Hunter Jr. said.

Hunter committed to Miami last season. That lasted about five months. He backed off that pledge in November of last year.

“I committed to Miami for him,” Hunter Jr. said. “He always wanted me to see me play with that ‘U’ on my helmet. But later on in the process, he realized it was my destiny. Not his. But when he spoke to Coach Scott, I felt that his connection was the same connection I felt to him and to Georgia. We both looked at each other after that call and said Georgia just might be the place.”

Where does John Rambo fit in? 

Hunter was given his “Rambo” nickname when he entered his high school. His uncle made him watch Sly Stallone and his M-60 when he was growing up.

It sounds hard to believe, but Hunter was initially a receiver as a freshman. That was several meals and muscles ago.

“I played receiver at first as a freshman but I was that type of dude that didn’t want to sit on the bench as an underclassman,” he said. “I was that guy who would play anything who didn’t want to sit on the bench. Who wanted to be on that field. So I would play anything.”

He was given that nickname for his physical style of play and the fact he wears bandannas during games. The regular season calls for a black bandanna. The green camouflage comes out for the playoffs.

“It is a straight savage nickname,” Hunter said. “That’s a ‘Dawg’ nickname my coaches gave me. I’m that type of player that is crazy in the weight room. I’m a maniac in the weight room. But on the field, I’m a ‘Dawg’ at all times. I’ll come out there with a bandanna and everything and my coaches started saying ‘He thinks he’s Rambo’ and they were calling me ‘Rambo’ every day in practice and in games.”

Hunter definitely seems like a name for this class to get to know going forward. He might be just what the Bulldogs are looking for along the defensive line for 2019. It certainly sounds like it.

Something to make sure to pay attention to

DawgNation has extended an invitation to the 2018 signees to share a personal essay about what it means to them to be on the way to play at UGA.

Owen Condon kicks off this series. His words. I think this essay reflects more of the student here than the athlete.

Condon likely gave his high school English teachers very few worries.

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.