LOGAN, Utah – When the game is on the line, LaJuan Hunt is just the player who coaches want carrying the ball at the end.
That will never change.
Even after Hunt fumbled – something he rarely does – as the Aggies were driving for a potential game-tying field goal or possible go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter against Wyoming on Oct. 14.
“Everybody knows about the last fumble of the game, which obviously came at a critical time,” said USU special teams coordinator/running backs coach Mark Tommerdahl. “I will say this in front of God and everybody, and I don’t think anybody will disagree with me, if there is one person on this team we want carrying the ball at the end of the game, it’s LaJuan Hunt. That is not changing. He is rock steady, we trust him and he will be placed in that situation again next week.”
Head coach Matt Wells agreed.
“Not one time have we sat here for four years and talked about LaJuan Hunt coughing the ball up,” Wells said. “He doesn’t do it. He hasn’t done it. It’s killing him. I feel bad for him. He’ll move on and we’ll move on. If we’re in that same situation again, you’re probably going to see LaJuan again because I trust him with the football.”
Hunt said it makes him feel good knowing the coaches trust him.
“For me, to be in that position means I’m doing something right,” Hunt said. “It’s just a good feeling knowing that come crunch time, the fourth quarter, the end of the game, that I’m the guy to go to. And, I just think that being in my position, I expect that. I'm just glad that it’s me.”
Hunt bounced back in a big way Oct. 21 at UNLV, rushing for 101 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 16 carries in the Aggies’ 52-28 victory. He also caught two passes for 39 yards, including a long of 38.
In fact, Hunt has recorded three 100-yard rushing games in the Aggies’ last four outings as he has rushed for 360 yards and seven touchdowns on 57 carries (6.3 ypc). He is averaging 90.0 yards on 14.3 carries in those last four contests.
On top of that, Hunt is the first Aggie to score at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games since Devante Mays in 2015, and the first Utah State player to have back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since Joey DeMartino in 2013.
For his career, Hunt has rushed for 1,681 career rushing yards on 397 carries (4.2 ypc) to rank 11th all-time in school history. With his carries, Hunt is now just four attempts shy of entering the top-10 all-time list in school history.
Hunt’s experience at USU has been good, though he has had his share of ups and downs.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Hunt said. “I’m happy where I am right now, I feel like I had a good tenure here and the experience has been good.”
Through the first 11 games of his senior season, Hunt leads the team in rushing with 663 yards and nine touchdowns on 138 carries (4.8 ypc). He also ranks third on the team in receptions with 25 for 159 yards and one touchdown. The senior has also returned one kick for 24 yards.
As a junior, Hunt played in 11 games and had one start, finishing with 140 rushing yards on 42 carries and one touchdown. He also had six receptions for 51 yards and four kickoff returns for 69 yards.
During his sophomore campaign in 2015, Hunt played in all 13 games and made seven starts, finishing the season with 338 rushing yards on 106 carries. He ended the season ranked third on the team in rushing yards and second in both attempts and rushing touchdowns. Hunt ranked second on the team in receptions and third in receiving yards, catching 27 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown.
As a freshman in 2014, Hunt played in all 14 games and made four starts. He led the team in rushing with 540 yards on 111 carries, which ranked second on the team. Those 540 rushing yards were the third-most in school history by a freshman and against Hawaii, Hunt rushed for a career-high 34 times for a career-best 145 yards, to go along with two receptions for 44 yards and one touchdown. The 34 carries were the most by an Aggie freshman in school history.
Despite the fact he has been here for four years now, Hunt still has not adjusted to Cache Valley weather.
The native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said there isn’t a way to adjust from having sunny days year-round to moving to Logan, where it can start snowing in October.
“It’s just really cold,” Hunt said. “I’m still trying to figure out ways to adapt to this freezing weather.”
Hunt started playing football at 5 years old because he came from a football family, and came to Utah State after weighing all his options.
“Utah State was a school that hit me up and got me out on a visit,” Hunt said. “Things went well and I ended up committing, and now I’m here.”
Hunt was named a captain at the start of his senior season and is one of 16 returning letterwinners for the offense.
Prior to joining the Aggies, Hunt earned Florida Class 4A second-team all-state honors at running back as a senior at University High School in Orlando, Fla. As a senior, he rushed for 377 yards on 49 carries and had nine touchdowns, to go along with 19 receptions for 338 yards and four touchdowns.
As a junior, Hunt rushed for 807 yards on 102 carries with 14 touchdowns, and had 11 catches for 32 yards to help the Suns capture the Class 3A title. During his sophomore year, Hunt rushed for 398 yards on 64 carries for eight touchdowns, and had eight receptions for 52 yards. When he was a freshman, Hunt rushed 230 yards on 36 carries for two touchdowns, and added two receptions for nine yards. Hunt was a four-year honor roll student.
Hunt’s favorite memories while at Utah State are the times the team has defeated Boise State and BYU. When he was a freshman, the Aggies knocked off No. 18 BYU in Provo, 35-20.
During his sophomore season, Hunt was on the team that defeated 21st-ranked Boise State, 52-26, at Maverik Stadium. Against the Broncos, he had rushed for 18 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, and caught two passes for 51 yards.
Then earlier this season, USU beat BYU 40-24 at home as Hunt rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries.
When he’s not playing football, Hunt enjoys fishing, hanging out with friends and playing video games. The number one thing he enjoys doing, though, is cooking.
“I’m a big, big cooker,” Hunt said. “I can cook lots of things and I love cooking.”
His favorite meal to cook is baked lemon pepper chicken with cornbread, rice and veggies.
“The whole nine,” Hunt said.
Hunt is also a self-proclaimed animal whisperer.
“I have a way with animals,” Hunt said. “I think it was just gifted to me as a kid, but I think I can talk and control animals in a way where they do what I want. It’s hard to explain, and it’s something that I’d have to show you rather than tell you.”
His favorite animal is a lion, and he hopes to have one someday.
Hunt is set to graduate in May with a degree in interdisciplinary studies with an emphases in sociology in business. His biggest accomplishment was seeing himself grow from a boy to a young man.
“With the coaches and my teammates, they all helped me mature and be responsible,” Hunt said. “They’re all skills I’m going to need outside of football, so I think that transferring myself from a boy to young man is my biggest accomplishment.”
Tommerdahl described Hunt as a rock-steady performer.
“He practices hard and he runs hard,” Tommerdahl said. “Is he a 4-4? No. Do you hold your breath every time he touches the ball? No. But, he is going to pass protect, he is going to be assignment-sound and when you hit him, he is going to keep his feet moving and move the pile forward.”
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