The Charlotte 49ers Mikel Hunter knew he had a chance at something special as he prepared to return a kickoff last week against Chowan.
The ball had been kicked low by the Hawks Alex Noboa, giving Chowans coverage team less time to cover.
The split-second of extra time was all the fleet Hunter needed, as he raced past the late-arriving tacklers 96 yards for a touchdown, helping the 49ers to a 47-7 victory.
The kick was flat, said Hunter. My guys got their blocks in. All I had to do was run straight.
That kind of electric play is why Hunter is at Charlotte (2-0), which is host to N.C. Central (1-1) Saturday at Richardson Stadium. In addition to the experience he brings to the 49ers startup program, he came to the 49ers as a player who could change a game in a lightning strike.
We want to get the ball in his hands, said coach Brad Lambert. Hes a fast guy who wants to touch the ball. And good things happen when he does.
Hunters touchdown wasnt unexpected and it wasnt the first time hed gone the distance in college.
Hunter, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior from Rockdale, Ga., is at Charlotte after playing three seasons at Air Force, where he was dismissed from the team a year ago. Hed had an impact with the Falcons, with 19 catches for 350 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver and 380 yards and three touchdowns running the ball. His 80-yard touchdown against South Dakota in 2011 was the fourth longest run in school history.
At Charlotte, Hunter has been used on offense primarily as a receiver, with seven catches for 91 yards (including one for 44 yards against Campbell).
I actually feel like a real receiver now, said Hunter. Its good to get the ball out in the open.
Hunter declined to discuss why he left Air Force. The specific reasons for his dismissal from the team in August 2012 arent known. According to a story in the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette, Air Force players are thrown off the team typically for one of four reasons: a violation of the honor code, academics, military performance problems or a physical fitness issue.
Lambert said he talked about Hunters situation with the Air Force coaching staff and was comfortable with offering him a spot at Charlotte.
I got another opportunity to play (at Charlotte) and Im happy with that, said Hunter.
(Defensive back Anthony Wooding, also dismissed from Air Force at the same time as Hunter, transferred to Wake Forest and was ruled eligible to play this week.)
Hunter is one of only five upperclassmen in Charlottes starting lineup. Hes happy to lend his experience.
I soak up everything he says to me, redshirt freshman Austin Duke said in August. Hes played college football before; he knows whats happening out there.
Duke and true freshman Trent Bostick join Hunter in the 49ers starting lineup. The two youngsters have made quick impressions of their own: Duke leads the team with 12 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Bostick has six receptions for 127 yards and two TDs.
But theyve also shown signs of their inexperience, each dropping sure catches.
I talk to them about it, said Hunter. But that just comes with the game, fumbling, dropping passes. Its all about being about to get your focus back and get onto the next play. Those guys have done that.
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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