When Cahokia (IL) coach Antwyne Golliday is asked about Jimmie Hunt, he lets out a laugh. It's not an embarrassing outburst. It's not a sarcastic chuckle, either.
It's more like a, "Well, where do I even begin?" exclamation. The seasoned coach collects himself after a pause, trying to think of the correct superlatives to describe his star wide receiver.
"A team leader," Golliday began. "Everybody's dream. Just a good kid overall."
Go ahead and pose the same question to Hunt himself. His answer, though a bit sheepish and modest, echoes his coach's sentiment.
"I'm an all-around player," Hunt said. "I do everything."
Golliday defined an all-around player for Hunt.
"He's my team leader," the coach bragged. "He let's me know what's going on. He's another coach on the field. If we call something, and he thinks we can do something different, I give him the green light to make that change."
Those roles, combined with his skills at receiver, defensive back, returner and holder for extra points, truly make Hunt an all-around player. While the talent level at East St. Louis High School catches the attention of major colleges across the nation, coaches are now heading south 5.5 miles to see Golliday's star. Offers from Kansas State and Missouri, accompanied with interest from Illinois, UCLA, Michigan State and Kansas, are turning Hunt into a national name.
"Kansas State was my first offer," Hunt said. "They offered me a while back, I can't even remember when. Missouri offered me at their Junior Day in January."
Cahokia finished 11-2 in 2008, losing in the Illinois state semifinals to Metamora. The Comanches, however, return their starting quarterback, three of their four wide receivers and three offensive linemen. Golliday said he expects big things from his team in 2009. That will mean more national recognition for Hunt.
"He's been in the weight room, lifting every day," Golliday said. "He's getting his body together, getting the team together. I might be changing the defense and put him at rover. He's a playmaker, and I want to get him involved as much as I can."
For college, Hunt said he doesn't care where he plays, as long as he's helping the team. After a little prodding, however, his true feelings come through.
"I'd love to play wide receiver, but if a team wants me at defensive back, I'll go there," Hunt said.
Luckily for Hunt, his top choice is recruiting him as wide receiver.
"Missouri is definitely at the top," Hunt said. "They're a well put together school. They make sure and put their academics on top. A really high percentage of football players get their degrees, and that's the most important thing to me."
The comparison has already been made, and if Hunt becomes a Tiger, he'll hear it even more often:
Will he be the next Jeremy Maclin? After all, at 6-foot-1, 195-lbs, Hunt is eerily reminiscent of the now-departed Missouri star.
"They do some things the same," Golliday said. "Jimmie will go across the middle and take a hit. He took five 5-yard patterns, broke tackles, and took the ball fifty-plus yards to the endzone this year. I think he brings more of a physical game, though.
"He's a unique player, though," Golliday laughed again. "He's going to be a Jimmie Hunt."