TR: For those that aren’t familiar with Tyler Hunt, provide us with a little insight about who you are.
TH: Tyler Hunt is a small town kid with a dream to give back and help change this world. If I can affect one kid with my passion, then maybe that kid will share it with his kids or friends.
There is so much negative stuff in this world, someone has to help brighten people's day. Why can't that person be me? Everyone is going through a struggle no matter their race or financial situation. Sharing with people helps everyone learn more about each other.
I want kids to have my passion and drive to make this world better. I am kid with big time dreams whose work ethic separates him from other people. I believe I struggled and had a hard road so I can share my story and help others achieve more with their life. I have struggled to inspire people, to use my platform to share God’s word, and to give back and change the lives of our future generation.
You brought up your small-town upbringing, could you go into further detail?
I have two brothers and one sister; my parents, Ron and Carol, have been happily married for about 25 years. My parents raised me to not see color and to not see price values on things; they raised me to see the value in the person and not the possessions they had. So I look for and position myself around people who share the same values and beliefs around me.
Growing up, I watched my mom and dad work their butts off—even while my dad fought and battled cancer—to give us kids the best life we could ask for. They really instilled their work ethic.
After arriving at Mizzou as a walk-on, Hunt eventually earned a football scholarship. Below Tyler Hunt trains at Driveline Baseball in Seattle:
What have you been up to since you graduated from Mizzou?
This summer, I have just been training for baseball. I'm getting ready to go to Seattle to train in a facility out there. I am also currently working on starting up my own charity to help kids from my community who can't afford [things like] school supplies, athletic equipment, and summer league fees. I also want to spread awareness about childhood obesity and educate parents about it.
What is the motivation behind wanting to start a foundation?
I want to give back to kids that don't have the resources or opportunities to play because of a situation. Every kid should have an opportunity to play sports. I want to share my love of sports with kids to hopefully impact their lives; to make them a better father, brother, sister, mom, son, or daughter in the future.
I feel that there is no point of living life if you are not helping others and spreading love. This world is complicated enough; there is no need to not give back to our communities and our youth.
Are you currently training in hopes of playing baseball at the next level?
Yeah, I plan on playing at the next level and I'm planning on hopefully getting a spring training invite next year.
What led you to try and continue to live out your dream of playing at the next level?
I know it might sound crazy, but this really was my plan all along. I wanted to play football and baseball at Mizzou; I wanted to walk on to both sports. I came to Mizzou with the dream of playing collegiate football then trying to play professional baseball. It's not like I just randomly changed my mind. I have always planned on doing this. It just has taken a little time and patience.
After not playing much baseball since high school is playing professionally a realistic goal or is it just your way of holding on to a childhood dream?
Is baseball realistic? Let’s just put it this way: I threw 95 in high school at 16 years old. I came to Mizzou and played football for two or three years before picking up a baseball for the first time in years and was throwing 87-88. I was throwing in the low 90s this season for the baseball team. So, yeah, I think it's a realistic goal.
If you never receive the opportunity to play baseball professionally will you be okay with that?
If I don't make it, yes, I will be able to walk away. I will be able to say I gave it everything I had, but I have to give it everything first.
Have you received interest from any teams so far?
Not much at the moment. I might have a couple of try outs lined up, but we will see how training goes and go from there.
After a very successful career high school career in which he racked up over 10,000 career yards on the gridiron, including an All-State selection following his senior year, Hunt chose to walk-on at the University of Missouri. Hunt averaged over 100 strike-outs a year and was on pace to shatter his high school’s strikeout record until he suffered an elbow injury while playing football his senior year. Hunt was also a 3x All-State selection in baseball.
Do you ever think back on your college decision and maybe wish that you had taken the full ride to play baseball at Maramec junior college?
I'm sure I haven't gone a day without someone asking me that question in the last five years, but, no I don't regret my decision at all. What people don't realize is where I come from we don't have anyone that ever goes and plays big time college football.
I watched a lot of kids go to smaller schools and play—there is nothing wrong with that at all—but I watched them return back home in a year or two after quitting football and dropping of college. I didn't want to be like these kids. Yes, I knew I could go to junior college for a year and then get drafted, but I wanted to serve a better purpose for all the small town kids like me. They needed someone to make it; someone to look up to.
I wanted to show kids that if you have a dream and you work harder than anyone else that you can make it. That you just have to keep your faith and trust in God. This journey has not been easy for me at all. But looking back at all the pain and sacrifices I made I know it's worth it.
In a previous interview, you had spoken about there being some sort of misunderstanding surrounding your status as a walk-on at Mizzou. So could you expand on your whole recruitment process? Were you under the impression that Mizzou was going to offer you a scholarship? What exactly was the misunderstanding tied to?
Well during my recruiting process, I just felt like I was missed. But I am not mad or angry at all. I understand that looking back at how small of a school I went to. Who would have thought a Division I running back would come from there? But I have a different mentality and work ethic than other people. That's something you can't see when looking at me trying to recruit.
I was one of the strongest kids in high school. I am very athletic and explosive. For me I was never a walk on. I had the talent, I was just mis-recruited. I understand I came from a small town and that's why, but from what I showed last year in the very limited plays I got, you could see what I could do when I had the ball in my hands.
The thing about walk-ons is that usually they are missing one It factor so that's the reason they don’t get recruited. But at 5'11, 220 lbs, with a 4.40 forty via an electric timer, I had all the attributes. I just needed to prove my worth due to coming from such a small town.
When did you realize that you could make it at the D-1 level and how gratifying was it for you to receive a scholarship from Mizzou?
I realized I could play at this level at a young age and I never missed a beat playing with my brothers. Usually I was one of the better players in the league even being three years younger. I started lifting before school every morning once I got into sixth grade. I am a very driven kid and I knew that I wanted to play at this level and that sacrifices had to be made. I would always be going on runs around our town to make sure I stayed in better shape than everyone.
I had the mindset that I was not going to look back and say I could have done more. I truly left everything I had every day, so when I got that scholarship it meant the world to me. It meant the times that I fell down in the weight room after practice because of exhaustion meant it was all worth it.
Getting that scholarship meant that everyone who told me I would never play at this level or laughed at me or told me I wouldn't graduate was wrong. That feeling of getting that scholarship will never be replaced.
After you exploded onto the scene as last season was it ever frustrating to find yourself on the sidelines as the team went through so many struggles offensively?
Yeah, I was frustrated due to the fact I'm a competitor and I want to play, but I'm not going to sit and argue about the coaching decisions. Would I have liked to get more exposure and see how much I could have blew up for college football? Yes, but I have to do what's best for our team and if the coaches felt that's what was best for our team at the time, then I have to respect their decision. But I also know God has a plan for me and that last season was only a glimpse into my story so I am very excited to see what happens in the near future.
Often times, we hear former players and coaches refer to being Mizzou Made, so what does it actually mean?
The thing I have learned the most from Coach Pinkel and about being Mizzou Made is simple. It's no special formula that turns you into some great player. Mizzou Made is being a true gentleman. Being on time. Getting your work done. Having people trust you. Being the best person you can be. Treating women with respect. Being a class act. Being a hard worker. Being a model citizen. That's what Mizzou Made is. Just being a hard worker and a true, old school gentleman.
That's what I believe it means and I want to carry that tradition on so parents will know in the future that their son will be in good hands; that their son will leave a boy and return a man. Yeah, you are going to Mizzou for football, but you leave with a degree and one day you will be a father and need to support your family. You are Mizzou for life. It's a brotherhood.
I also spoke with Tyler Hunt’s former high school baseball coach Lance Massey. Massey opened up about Hunt’s baseball career as well as his uncanny ability to overcome adversity.
TR: What kind of person was Tyler Hunt?
LM: Tyler was always very motivated. He was probably the most determined kid I have ever been around.
It didn't matter if he was competing in the weight room, the football and Baseball fields, or in PE, Tyler wanted to be the best and would work for that.
Do you feel like Tyler has been an inspiration to the community?
Yes. He was a well-liked, important part of the Mizzou football team at a time that they really needed a good image and Tyler fulfilled that role. Not only for Huntsville, but all of Missouri. It seemed as if every day there was something negative coming from campus and Tyler gave us at Westran and all fans of Mizzou something positive to grasp on to.
What is it about him that causes people to initially overlook him?
I think partially the fact that he was from a small school. Good athletes often get over looked or their accomplishments get lessened because the competition level is assumed to be less.
Also, once Tyler got to MU, I don't think they were willing to give him a legit shot because he was this kid 30 miles from Columbia that was a walk-on. If he was given a true shot, then it would show they missed out on him at first and that doesn't look good. Then you have other kids from Texas that are scholarship kids and if the walk-on gets snaps over the scholarship kids, how do you ever convince the so-called better athletes from Texas or wherever they are from to come to Mizzou?
Second his overall size and his style of play. Unfortunately, Tyler couldn't overcome his height. If he was three inches taller, I think people would have been more willing to take chances on him. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, but if you don't pass the EYE test you usually don't get a shot.
In your opinion what drives Tyler Hunt?
I think Tyler is driven by the need to prove anyone who doesn't believe in him wrong. He has the ability to channel any doubt and focus it on a singular goal. When he was around 10, the football coach at the time told him that soda was bad for him and would keep him from being as good of a football player. As far as I know, he hasn't drunk soda to this day.
How is Tyler able to constantly prove everyone wrong about him?
I think Tyler believes in himself and is willing to work and do whatever it takes to get what he sets his sights on. “Can't” isn't in his vocabulary. That cliché is often used in sports, but he truly believes in it and works to live by it.
Based on his high school days, does he have the stuff to be a pitcher in the professional ranks?
That's hard for me to say. He is the closest player I have ever had. He had the best velocity of any pitcher I have coached or faced. When he was a Jr. I had him consistently on the radar gun at 90 mph and popped as high as 92.
He was invited to the Phillies Post draft work out in KC and they really liked him. I had several conversations with their Local Scout. He had an elbow injury in the semifinals of football that didn't allow him to pitch his senior year in baseball. Once that healed, he regained velocity and confidence in it late that summer, but was off the radar by then with the pro scouts so he signed to play JC Baseball in STL and eventually was offered a walk-on spot for Mizzou in football which is what he loved and wanted to do.