Hunter a star on and off the field
Humble, likable, awesome and well-grounded are just a few words friends and administrators use to describe Neshoba Central High School’s star running back Jarquez Hunter.
The senior passed a major threshold and a personal goal recently, when he broke the touchdown record held by football legend Marcus Dupree for nearly 40 years.
The two are distant cousins.
Hunter scored his 88th touchdown when the Rockets defeated Holmes Central. Dupree scored 87 touchdowns during his career at Philadelphia High School, breaking the national high school record set by Herschel Walker by one. Dupree played for the Tornados from 1978 to 1981.
At least one other football player from Mississippi, Dicenzo Miller, also broke Dupree’s record. He went on to play at Mississippi State University.
“Jarquez breaking that record is very special to all of us around this area,” High School Principal Jason Gentry said. “Marcus was a highly recruited high school athlete.”
Hunter set a personal goal to break the record.
“I knew I had to get five more touchdowns to beat the record,” he said. “I scored the five touchdowns against Holmes Central.”
He ran for 15 to 20 yards to get the TD.
Hunter scored three touchdowns against Vicksburg to get to 91and XX more in last week’s homecoming game.
“I was excited because I beat Marcus Dupree’s record. He was one of the best high school football players ever,” he said.
Hunter’s mother, Kenyatta Ragsdale, jumped up and down with excitement.
“She was real proud,” Hunter said. “I got to keep the football that I scored with that night. She got me a frame to put the ball in.”
His father, Kenshay Hunter, called and congratulated him as well. He lives in Texas.
Dupree also called him.
“He was happy I broke his record,” Hunter said.
Despite his popularity across the county, Gentry said Hunter remains “a very humble, humble young man. He is always pleasant and smiling. I tell people that as good a football player that he is, he’s a much better young man. He’ll tell you he is just another part of the team but we know how special he is.”
Hunter was recently elected Mr. Neshoba Central High School, with students voting from grades nine through 12.
He has already fielded calls from such universities as Vanderbilt, Virginia, Tulane, Memphis, Georgia Tech, the University of Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi and Jackson State.
He plans to study engineering in college and aspires to play in the NFL.
Neshoba Central Athletic Director Tommy Holland has followed Hunter’s career closely.
“When I think of him, the first word that comes to mind is humble,” Holland said. “He is so grounded. He is such a likeable and awesome kid that you want him to win not just on the football field but to win at life. He’s going to be an asset to whatever program, to whatever employer gets him. He’s got a work ethic like no other.”
Holland described Hunter as a leader on the football team.
“He pulls the wagon for the team. If he is playing well, they are playing well. It puts a lot of pressure on a young man. He leads by example not by voice. I’ve seen him challenge himself and other people, too. He may not intend to make people around him better, but he does.”
Guidance Counselor Cindy Byrd said Hunter’s work ethic and “will to win” is what sets him apart from the rest.
She encouraged him to take the ACT again after he scored an 18.
“If we said: ‘Jarquez, you need an 18 on the ACT.’ He made it. Then he made a 20 the next time. It’s his will to win in every aspect of his life. He just excels.”
Byrd recalled how she returned to campus late one evening to walk on the track and saw Hunter there running.
“He was putting in the extra time,” she said. “There was not another teammate anywhere around.”
Kelby Holmes also described his best friend and teammate as humble.
“On the field, he’s a humble athlete,” he said.
The two have grown up together.
“He’s a great friend. We have our disagreements at times about our mistakes and stuff like that on the football field. He’s a friendly person. He gets along with everybody on the team. He doesn’t ever lose his cool.”
Hunter also plays basketball and runs track at Neshoba Central. He did power lifting last year.
“When he power lifts, he lifts in shorts, tights and boots,” Gentry said. “I laughed when I saw him. He’s just an ole country boy as we say.”
In his free time, Hunter likes to ride horses, fish, hunt and ride four wheelers.
His next goal is to help the Rockets bring home the Class 5A state championship trophy.