This is not how it was supposed to be. Not in Terrel Hunt’s mind, and certainly not in his dreams.
For so long, the former Syracuse quarterback had envisioned his draft-day moment and an NFL future. But if he’s learned anything over the past six years, it’s that life isn’t predictable and it’s not at all fair.
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Before he graduated high school, Hunt had lost both of his parents. And it wasn’t long before the game he loved was taken from him, too. Back-to-back injuries robbed him of the opportunity to complete his junior and senior seasons. And now, with only days to go before the draft, Hunt has accepted the fact that he won’t hear his name called after all.
But he’s come too far to give up now.
There’s an inner strength, an inherent grit that he believes resides in New York City kids. And the Queens native and Christ the King alum wears his determination and his commitment to his craft like a badge of honor. His football future is more uncertain than ever, yet he’s not at all unsure of his ability.
“I just believe in myself,” he said in a phone interview with Newsday. “I’ve never been in a battle I haven’t won . . . My life has been tough. So for me to go through this now, means something great has to be coming soon. Something’s going to turn around for me. So for me to give up isn’t an option.”
At the sound of his footsteps, Katrina Hunt would prop up herself in the bed and adjust her wig, so it’d sit just right on her head. She’d flash a bright smile at the sight of her son and then pretend, for his sake, that all would be well.
“She wouldn’t want me to see her weak,” said Hunt, who was in the 10th grade when he learned his mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
But he knew better.
“ ‘She’s going to die.’ Instantly that’s what I thought,” he said.
She passed away before he reached the 12th grade. Then a year and a day later, on Feb. 1, 2011 — the day before he signed his letter of intent to play at Syracuse — his father, Darryl Dockery, died.
“He told me one day that he’ll never tell me he’s proud of me until I make it,” Hunt said. “I know he was proud, but it was still like, damn. That [letter of intent] was the only thing I wanted to bring to him and show him.”
According to Hunt, the medicine given to Dockery after his liver transplant “made him sicker.” His father then suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma before eventually dying.
If there’s one thing Hunt knows, it’s loss. But he also sees beauty in the struggle. That’s why he’s so determined to prove he can be an NFL quarterback despite not having played a full season in more than two years.
After a season-ending fractured fibula in the fifth game of Syracuse’s 2014 season, he tore an Achilles tendon in the Orange’s season opener last year. In November, the NCAA denied Hunt’s extension of eligibility waiver for a sixth season. Hunt, who redshirted as a freshman in 2011, competed in more than 30 percent of Syracuse’s scheduled games in 2014, missing the cutoff for a medical redshirt year.
“I was really shocked,” said Hunt, who earned the starting job in 2013 and led the Orange to a 21-17 victory over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl on December 27, 2013. “I thought it was kind of a no-brainer.”
For the first time in his life, football wasn’t there to comfort him.
It had always been his sanctuary, his safe place from all of the hurt. And now, that familiar escape route wasn’t an option.
“I used to come home every night around 3 o’clock just so I would be really exhausted, and just go to sleep and then wake up and do it all over again,” he said. “Whenever I would think about [my parents], I would go to the gym or throw the football around. And I kind of lost that the last two years.
“I didn’t have the outlet I wanted.”
The torn Achilles affected him mentally, he said. But the injury hasn’t shaken his resolve. “No pain is worse than what I went through,” he said.
He said his agents have received calls from the 49ers, Raiders, Cardinals and Eagles, but the Giants are the only team that brought him in for a workout. Hunt said the Giants considered trying him out at tight end during their April 8 local pro day, but “as soon as we started throwing, they didn’t even mention tight end.”
And the Jets? “They actually didn’t want me [to work out]. That’s the crazy part,” said the 6-3, 238-pound signal-caller.
Though he’s accepted he won’t be drafted, Hunt admitted it’s still “hard to swallow,” adding:
“I would much rather have failed and been a terrible quarterback than to not even get a chance to show you.”
His fallback plan is already taking shape: He’s at Syracuse working on a master’s degree in instructional development, design and evaluation; he’s a sales agent for Next Solutions LLC; and he’s working toward a job in commercial real estate.
But his focus is on making the NFL. Not only for himself, but for his parents.
“I know my Mom would be proud looking down on me, and my Dad,” Hunt said. “So that would be . . . I don’t know. I’d be ecstatic.”