Coming from a family with a long history of serving the military, it should come as no surprise that Hunter Herring champions discipline at Ouachita Christian School.
With many in his family who have served like his father (Paul Herring), his uncle (Mark Herring) and grandfather (Robert Levac), the military has always been a big part of Herring’s life. And in actuality, it was always an option on the table when Herring thought about his future. At least it was for a while.
“It’s always been in the back of my head,” Herring said. “Really, when I was all baseball, I thought if I don’t make it in baseball, I’ll just go (enlist) as a marine.”
The now two-time Ouachita Citizen Offensive Player of the Year won’t be enlisting any time soon, not after reporting to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on Jan. 12 as a football signee.
The legacy Herring leaves behind at OCS is, well, historic.
Just take a gander at the list of accolades Herring has accomplished as the team’s starting quarterback:
— Most average yards per game in a single-season (302.7 in 2020)
— Most yards in a Class 1A/Division IV State Championship Game (480 in 2020)
— Tied for most responsible touchdowns accounted for in a season (52 in 2019)
— Tied for third-most rushing touchdowns in a season (26 in 2020)
— Third highest single-season yards per carry average (9.1 in 2020)
— Fourth most touchdowns responsible for (95)
— Fifth total offensive yards in a career (5,708)
And how about this nugget? Herring averaged a touchdown run every fifth carry of his 2020 season. Now that's efficiency.
“He did all of that in two years, and that’s the thing about Hunter,” OCS head coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “When people think about quarterbacks and the dual threat quarterback, they think about the arm and the elusive runner. His running, it’s deceptive because he breaks the long run. He’ll score on a 60- or 80-yard run and leave everybody behind, but at the same time, he will flat out run over you if you’re in the way.
“You have to stack the box just to account for him. And I thought his passing really took off this year. The thing is we played in 10 games as a team, and he had zero rushing attempts in Game 2 against Sicily Island because he hurt his ankle against Jena in the first week. Then he didn’t play against Tensas. So he got all of his yards on the ground in just eight ballgames.”
In total, Herring rushed for 1,303 yards and 26 touchdowns on 143 carries. He also threw for 1,421 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games.
No, there certainly wasn’t any shortage of plays that Herring made in 2020, but if you tasked Fitzhugh with coming up one play to fully showcase how dominant of a player Herring was, Fitzhugh actually has one in mind.
“One that made you go, ‘Wow,’ was the run he had against Denham Springs,” Fitzhugh said. “He made cuts and shook people and stiff armed people, putting them on the ground. It just showed his athleticism and strength.”
Herring’s curtain call at OCS was a dramatic one. Fitzhugh said he thought Herring was the sharpest he’d been all year, putting the ball on the money through the air, and with 64-yard and 47-yard touchdowns run in the first half, Herring was well on his way to having a career day. He even had 300 total yards by halftime.
But engaged in a shootout with Calvary Baptist in the Division IV State Championship Game, Herring injured his ankle on the sideline late in the second quarter. And it altered not only the way OCS coaches would call the plays in the second half but also limited Herring’s mobility in the pocket.
“I hurt it a couple times this season, so it was just one of those deal,” Herring said. “We taped it up real tight and they sent me back out there. It was the state championship. I knew I wasn’t coming out regardless. At the time, the adrenaline was going, and I was just ready to go win a football game.”
Herring shrugged off the pain and entered the game with less than a minute to go. His team down 34-20, the Eagles needed a spark and Herring, who limped onto the field, delivered an 84-yard touchdown pass to Tristan Wiley in his first play back onto the field.
“Drew Vidrine drew up that play,” Fitzhugh said. “I watched them run it at practice, and it was like, ‘Man, that looks good.’ I’ll circle plays I really like, and that was one of them.”
Herring finished the state championship game with 328 passing yards, 166 rushing yards and five total touchdowns.
And to think, Herring wanted to be a baseball player… Before Herring committed to play baseball with ULM in 2019, he and his father visited with Fitzhugh about playing football his sophomore year.
“His dad was like, ‘Coach, he’s talking about not playing football, and Hunter, you don’t know what you could be,’” Fitzhugh remembered. “Play it all. At that point in time, he was pretty worn out because he was playing baseball for three straight weekends. You know, I remember asking him when we went to Memphis for a camp one year… I said, ‘Now Hunter, they’re going to ask about you. Is there any interest?’ And he just said, ‘No, I’m all baseball.’”
Both Fitzhugh and Paul Herring could see the potential, and Herring realized it later in 2019 during the Eagles’ Division IV State Championship run. In four postseason games, Herring completed 31-of-51 passes for 635 yards (20.5 yard per completion) with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, he averaged 11.6 yards per carry while rushing for 649 yards and 14 touchdowns.
In two seasons as the team’s quarterback, Herring made himself a regular in the school’s record books. In Fitzhugh’s mind, that’s what makes Herring a standout among the all-time greats in school history.