Derek Hunt hoped against hope, but a Tuesday visit to the doctor confirmed what he and Maryville College coach Tony Ierulli already knew. After suffering his fifth concussion dating back to high school in the Maryville opener two weeks ago, Hunt’s days as a Scot are over.
“I went to the neurologist (Tuesday),” the Maryville sophomore said, “and he told me it was time to hang ‘em up.”
Hunt was injured midway through the first quarter of Maryville’s loss to Huntingdon College Sept. 5 at Honaker Field. The Maryville High School product was nauseous upon leaving the playing field and was taken to the hospital shortly after halftime. Ierulli said Hunt tried to return to practice early last week, but by Friday it was obvious the preseason All-USA South selection would not travel with the team to Kentucky on Saturday to face rival Center.
“He said he felt a little bit better the Tuesday after practice,” Ierulli said. “He told us he still had a slight headache. Wednesday and Thursday, it got worse.”
Ierulli said Hunt will remain with the team as a student coach this season. Tim Conner, a junior, is now the starter for Maryville, with freshman Chris Shelton of Lincoln County and sophomore Dylan Morgan of Heritage moving up to Nos. 2 and 3 on the depth chart.
Conner passed for 576 yards and four scores for Maryville a year ago, finishing with 337 yards and a touchdown in relief of Hunt in the opening loss to Huntingdon.
“We never felt like Tim Conner was our No. 2,” Ierulli said. “We felt like Derek and he were (Nos.) 1 and 1A.”
Hunt, who passed for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games last season, will be missed as much for his leadership as his strong, accurate throws, Ierulli said.
“It’s just a shame,” Ierulli said. “There probably wasn’t anyone who worked harder in the preseason to get better. He just looked fantastic.
“I just feel bad for him. He’s been an outstanding young man. He, (linebacker) Kyle (Chewning) and (running back) Rommel (Hightower) have been the face of the program the last few years. When you’re dealing with a head injury, you can’t take any chances.”
It isn’t going to be easy to walk away from a game he’s played since he was 7, Hunt said. It isn’t going to get any easier for the Scots (0-2) without him, either, beginning with this weekend’s trip to LaGrange (Ga.) College, an NCAA Division III playoff qualifier a year ago.
“They’ve got one of the best defenses we’ll play all year,” Ierulli said. “Their offensive line runs really well. It’s going to be a tough football game.”
Watching from the press box Saturday is likely to prove equally so for Hunt, he said.
“It’s hard to get something taken away from you like that,” Ierulli said. “I talked to (the Scots), and I told them the way to honor a guy like Derek is to play hard.”