Quiet Hunter drawing comparisons to Barry Sanders Print
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Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:25
NCAAF Headline News

 STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -As the minutes tick down to the start of another Oklahoma State football game, players and coaches in the Cowboys' locker room often are loud and boisterous, trying to get the team pumped up to play.
In the midst of it all, Kendall Hunter sometimes will close his eyes - and take a quick nap.
``I don't know why, but a couple of minutes before the game, before we've got to go out, I just get a little sleepy and tired,'' Hunter said. ``I used to go to sleep in high school.
``It's my way of focusing. ... I just doze off a little bit and I wake right back up.''
Hunter already could be compared to 1988 Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders - the Cowboys' star tailback from a generation ago - for his laid-back, quiet nature, his small stature and his shifty moves. So, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy wasn't surprised to find out that Hunter shared Sanders' penchant for sometimes taking relaxation to an extreme before games.
nces of him dying of a heart attack aren't very good,'' said Gundy, who was Oklahoma State's quarterback during Sanders' Heisman Trophy-winning season. ``The guy has got about 50 beats a minute, which is good. He loves to play, though.''
Hunter's numbers aren't quite as eye-popping as Sanders, whose Division I record of 2,628 yards rushing in a season still stands 20 years later. But the 5-foot-8, 190-pound sophomore has rushed for 618 yards in four games, and his 155-yard average ranks third in major college football behind Donald Brown of Connecticut and Javon Ringer of Michigan State.
M (2-2).
It's a big step up from last season, when Hunter rushed for 696 yards in a reserve role behind Dantrell Savage, who's now with the Kansas City Chiefs.
``Kendall has really practiced much differently this year than he did last year,'' Gundy said. ``He's practiced the way he's played. Part of that is because I think he understands what we're doing now. He spent most of last year just running around making plays because he had the ability, but didn't really know what he was doing.''
Hunter agreed with that assessment.
``The game is starting to slow down,'' he said. ``...Now I'm starting to see the field better.''
Hunter isn't the personality type that enjoys the attention that comes with being one of the nation's top running backs. While polite, his responses to questions usually are either brief (many times a ``Yes, sir'') or a chuckle.
``I'll say, 'Hi. What's going on?' and I'll try to talk to him, and I'll get one-word answers or a head nod,'' offensive lineman Andrew Lewis said. ``He doesn't really say much, but he seems like a cool guy to me.''
Hunter does open up, however, when asked about the pickup football games he played as a child against older boys in his hometown of Tyler, Texas.
``We played on the street all the time,'' he said. ``If you go on the curb, you're going to get hit in the grass, so the best thing to do is stay inside and try to shake everybody and run around them.''
It's in those pickup games that he said he developed moves like the one he displayed during the Cowboys' opening series of the second half against Troy. On a carry deep in Oklahoma State territory, ``he went completely down backwards,'' Gundy recalled, ``and he put his hand down, and his butt was (inches) off the ground, and he popped up. It was pretty impressive.''
The play netted 11 yards and a first down, part of a drive in which the Cowboys covered 99 yards in 11 plays - all on the ground.
Hunter's diminutive size made some Oklahoma State coaches question whether he would be a viable recruit. Gundy went to watch him during a spring game and came away convinced Hunter was worth a scholarship.
``We thought he was going to be pretty good right then,'' Gundy said. ``And then, when he showed up here as a freshman, he did what most good backs do when they're freshmen. You run them all the time and they never complain about getting tackled. They don't say anything and they keep running and they're durable. ... In my history, that's when you can tell when you've got a pretty good back.''
Gundy sees Hunter's size as an advantage, not a problem, and cites his former backfield mate as an example.
``They had problems seeing Sanders forever around here,'' he said. ``I think there's some truth to that (theory).''
 

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