CONYERS - There wasn't much that Mikel Hunter didn't do for his teams his senior year at Heritage.
As a football player, Hunter was the go-to guy. He scored 10 touchdowns last season - seven on offense, two on defense and one on special teams. At wide receiver, he led the Patriots with 30 catches for 657 yards, averaging 21.9 yards per catch. He also averaged 19.4 yards returning kicks on special teams and was a standout corner in the Heritage secondary on defense.
But it didn't stop there.
Hunter also anchored the track and field team over the spring, competing in more events per track meet than any other member of the boys team.
After taking first at the region meet in the high jump, Hunter went on to place fifth at the state meet with a leap of 6 feet, 2 inches.
But it wasn't just what Hunter did athletically that earned him the honor of being the Citizen's 2008 Heritage Athlete of the Year.
Hunter epitomized what the student-athlete is and should be.
"I can't say enough about him. He's an awesome kid," Heritage football coach Chad Frazier said. "He's obviously very talented athletically, but he does just as well in the classroom and has just as good character.
"His mother did an excellent job raising him and instilled some unbelievable character traits in him. He had a great work ethic, he was always very respectful and very disciplined as far as a player and a person. He was just a guy that knew so much about the game and was so gifted and so talented. He was just an all-around great kid. We'll miss him, and I hate that I only had one year with him. At the same time though, I'm really glad I had that one year."
Frazier said Hunter was not only a leader on the field, but he was their playmaker.
"On the field, he was a leader. He would do what you ask him to do and he would help others do what they were supposed to do," Frazier said. "He was our playmaker. He was our go-to guy when we needed a big play. He was our deep threat and he was always one of the fastest kids on the field. At defensive back, he led us in interceptions and was kind of a lock-down guy. Special teams-wise, he returned kicks and returned one for a touchdown against Eastside. He also returned an interception and a fumble for a touchdown. He just made plays all over the place. He was one of my favorite players to be around."
Heritage boys track coach Hal Fairbanks was also impressed with the type of student-athlete Hunter was at Heritage.
"To me, he's humble and he works hard at trying to get better. He doesn't talk about it, he just does it," Fairbanks said. "When he came in, his PR (personal record) in the high jump was 5-10, when he was done, it was 6-5."
Fairbanks said Hunter was not only talented, but technical.
"When you told him to do stuff, not only did he do it, but he tried to do it properly. The technical aspect of the high jump makes a big difference," he said. "Of all the guys that I saw in the high jump all year to make six feet or higher, he was the shortest. He just paid more attention to the technical aspect of it and it made a big difference. His PR in the high jump went up seven inches in one year - that's huge.
"He was also a leader. The best thing about Mikel was that he did five events every track meet. He did the high jump, the long jump, the 200 (meter) and then both relays. He was pretty busy. Leadership-wise, he was the No. 1 guy in every event. I think he's a great choice as Athlete of the Year because he was a two-sport athlete and he was at the top of both of them."
Hunter's accolades this past year also caught the eye of several big colleges and universities.
In the end, Hunter signed a scholarship to play football for the Air Force Academy.
"I think he's going to make a great cadet at the Air Force Academy," Fairbanks said. "I think they picked the right guy."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
SideBar: Past winners
· 1999: Lauren Dix
· 2000: Brian Carr
· 2001: Shannon Wommack
· 2002: Brad Shea
· 2003: Tiffany Thomas
· 2004: David Sanders
· 2005: Bo Hanson
· 2006: Soibhan Wolcott
· 2007: Jewel May