UGA legacy Jaden Hunter honors his late father’s memory.
The 4-star linebacker from Westlake High School often posts pictures on social media of Brice Hunter, the former UGA receiver. Jaden also writes “R.I.P. 88” on his wristbands before every game.
“After I make a play then I will look down at my wrists and just think about my Dad,” Hunter said.
“That’s just a good feeling to think about my Dad and a way to have him out there on the field with me when I play.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder could also find stardom like his father in college. Jaden is rated as one of the state’s top juniors, and has already earned a stack of early scholarship offers. He lists Alabama as his leader, followed by LSU.
His father’s alma mater, UGA, rounds out the top three. Jaden’s chief recruiter is Bryan McClendon, the receivers coach who has Westlake in his territory. McClendon can relate to Hunter — he turned down other suitors to follow in his father’s footsteps to play football at UGA.
“(McClendon) tells me that me and him had the same situation when we were in high school,” Jaden Hunter said.
“Both of our parents played for Georgia. He used to like Florida more than he liked Georgia. But Georgia influenced him by saying ‘Hey, man you know your Pops went here and it would be great if you went here too’ and that’s the message he’s trying to get across with me. ”
Hunter is not planning on attending “Dawg Night” this week. He’ll be in Tallahassee for most of this week at Florida State’s camp. Despite that, he said the fact his father played at UGA will ensure he gives the program a very long look.
“Most people might think I’m going to play at Georgia because my Dad played there,” Jaden Hunter said. “But my Mom wants me to keep an open mind with these schools that offer me because Georgia might not be the best fit for me. But I am always going to consider playing at Georgia because of the connection I have there.”
Alabama is the school to beat for Hunter, and he nearly committed to the Crimson Tide earlier this summer. Kirby Smart, who is Alabama’s defensive coordinator, also played football with Jaden’s father at UGA.
“Coach Kirby (Smart) tells me a lot of stories from back when they were in college,” Hunter said. “He played with my Dad when he was a freshman and my Dad was a senior. He tells me how good of a player my Dad was and how good of a person was.”
Brice Hunter was a record-breaking receiver at UGA from 1992-95. He was a two-time All-SEC selection and his 73 catches he had in 1993 are still the school record. Hunter married former UGA basketball standout Brandi Decker, and the couple had three sons.
The elder Hunter died in 2004 in what police determined was a justifiable homicide. According to the Chicago Tribune, Hunter was shot several times after confronting a neighbor who complained about the loud music coming from Hunter’s apartment. Police said the shooting appeared to have been done in self-defense.
It has been more than 10 years since the tragedy, and Brandi Hunter can’t help but marvel at her son’s appearance. She feels Jaden is the “total spitting image” of his father. His mannerisms and even his laughter are the same.
“I’ve known how he does those things to honor his father’s memory,” Brandi said. “He’s made it a part of his life to give reverence and respect Brice however he can. That’s by going out and being the best Jaden he can be.”
Brandi has talked about her husband’s death with her sons.
“We have discussed what happened to Brice that night and I’ve always made a point to let them know that what happened that night is not a reflection of who he was,” she said.
“It is a reflection of a poor judgement call and how one costly and one poor decision can ultimately cost you your life. The incident of that night just didn’t reflect who he was as a person.”
“I want my sons and their lives to be a reflection of the man their father really was and how they represent him in their day-to-day actions with how they carry themselves with character and dignity and pride in how they compete on the field.
“Our goal was to reflect and honor Brice’s memory by being great people. That’s what I have always told them. Their father was a great man regardless of how he died. It didn’t represent who he was as a person.”
Which school will sign Jaden? His mother wouldn’t mind seeing him end up at UGA, but she’s not going to pressure him into any direction. It’s mostly Jaden’s decision to make, as long as he doesn’t select two of UGA’s biggest rivals — Florida and Georgia Tech.
“Those just aren’t options for us,” Brandi said with a laugh. “I just couldn’t see Jaden ending up at either of those schools.”
GET TO KNOW JADEN HUNTER AND THE HUNTER FAMILY
RELATED: Check out UGA’s Big Board for 2016
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.