clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Travis Hunter is the biggest name in college football

Travis Hunter is one of a kind, both on and off the field.

University of Colorado vs University of Stanford Set Number: X164442

The 2023 Colorado Buffaloes are probably the furthest thing from your typical college football team. The Buffs have two-time Super Bowl champion Deion Sanders at the helm, who overhauled the entire roster upon his arrival.

Coach Prime purged 31 of last year’s starters and replaced them all via the transfer portal. The new Colorado coach brought in 46 transfers last offseason, which was completely unheard of. Of all of these new additions for the Buffs, one stands outs as easily the most extraordinary: Travis Hunter.

On the field, Hunter is one of a kind. You rarely ever see players play on both sides of the ball. Most college coaches consider playing their guys two-ways as being too risky, but Travis warrants an exception. On the defense side of the ball, he’s probably the most talented cornerback in the country. He’s a freak athletically, with length, agility and speed that make him a nightmare in man coverage.

Hunter has an innate ability to track and play the ball, almost like he’s a receiver playing cornerback. He’s an intelligent and instinctual playmaker who can make plays that your average elite corner could only dream of.

In the Buffs’ first game against TCU, Hunter showed his combination of incredible athleticism and ability to process the game. In a game full of highlights, the most impressive was his diving interception where he read the quarterback’s eyes, swapped receivers in man coverage, undercut the flat route and made a ridiculous catch.

On the offensive side of the ball, Travis is just as talented. When he’s on the field, he’s Shedeur Sanders’ first option, usually on screens, crosses and go routes. Again, what separates Hunter from his peers is his athleticism, spatial awareness and coordination. He makes the specular normal, as he can track the ball and make plays that would be unbelievable if we hadn’t seen in the previous drive.

Hunter has only played four full games, due to a lacerated liver suffered against Colorado State, yet he’s still put up 32 catches, 360 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s made more impressive plays, but watch his two scores to see why he was the #1-rated recruit at both receiver and corner.

The first one is a shallow crossing route where he catches the ball, then dusts his defender with the smoothest spin since Braxton Miller, and outsprints the rest of the defense to the end zone. The second one is more of the Alpha receiver variety, where he wins in man coverage and hangs on for the catch after getting crushed by the incoming safety.

You would think Hunter would have to rest between snaps after playing on both sides of the ball, but neither him nor the coaches have heard of load management. Hunter is a freak, plain and simple, who can keep going without needing to catch his breathe. (Maybe he played too much against Stanford and was clearly exhausted at the end, but everyone was in that OT thriller.)

What Travis is doing on the field is unprecedented in today’s game. His combination of dominance on both sides of the ball paired with his behemoth workload is perhaps something college football hasn’t seen since Deion’s days at Florida State. Some have been critical of Coach Prime giving Hunter such a huge workload, but the Colorado head coach wants Hunter on the field as much of possible because he’s something special.

“You got to understand everybody who’s critical of that by saying he’s gonna tire or he’s gonna do that. Shoot they can’t cook and answer the phone at the same time,” said Deion. “I don’t subscribe to that foolishness because that’s who Travis is. Travis is special. He has a tremendous gift and he wants to play. He loves to play.”

Off the field, Travis is just as unique as he is on the gridiron. Travis is anything but your typical college football star. Many college football players like to live a life full of partying and girls. However, that isn’t how Hunter rolls. He prefers to live a more low-key life while staying true to who he really is.

“You talk about the kindest, nicest kid. No smoking. No drinking. All he wants to do is spend time with his girlfriend and fish and put on that onesie.” said Coach Prime when talking about Travis.

Much like Deion, Hunter’s whole life revolves around the game of football. He is one of Colorado’s most dedicated players, which has helped his relation with Coach Prime to blossom.

“At six o’clock in the morning, probably at 5:45 a.m. I get a text every gameday saying let’s go. That’s what I get from Travis. Every gameday. Let’s go. Let’s go do this coach. So I love him like he’s my son,” said Deion. “I treat him like I would if he was my son, but he’s a tremendous player and you got to put him on display and consistently put him on display.”

Hunter shows a tremendous amount of character off the field. During Colorado’s game against Colorado State, Travis took a cheap shot from Rams safety Henry Blackburn. That hit would end up lacerating Hunter’s liver, which led to a short stint in the hospital and caused him to miss nearly four games.

While many Colorado fans were livid at Blackburn and were loudly hoping for a suspension, Travis had a different approach to the situation. The Colorado two way star invited Blackburn to go bowling for a YouTube video to squash the beef.

“It’s football at the end of the day. You’re expecting something bad to happen on the football field. You’re going out there to run into each other a thousand times a game,” said Hunter when talking to Blackburn. “When it happened, I was like ‘it’s not his fault. It’s football.’”

It is exceedingly rare that you see a player forgive the person who injured them on a play like that, let alone go hang out with them and play bowling. Travis decided to take the ultimate high road in that situation, which just further reenforces how special and unique this young man is.

Hunter was very much involved with the team during his time away due to injury, just in a different way than he usually is. He decided to coach the team so he could help in any way he could.

“[Travis] was out at practice today coaching his butt off,” said Coach Prime during week five. “He’s one of the best coaches we have.”

Specifically, Hunter decided to take freshman and five star recruit cornerback Cormani McClain under his wing. Coach Prime dropped some hints that McClain was struggling behind the scenes and that Travis was doing his best to get the young player back on track.

“[Travis] is on [Cormani’s] butt, day in and day out.” said Deion.

During the Buffs’ game against USC, Hunter could be seen on the sideline giving McClain instruction and advice. Nobody told Hunter to step up into the coaching role during his time off, but he decided to on his own fruition. He’s just that natural of a leader.

“You don’t instruct dawgs to be dawgs. That’s just who [Travis] is,” said Coach Prime.

Hunter’s road to Boulder has been anything but typical. Touted as a consensus five-star recruit out of high school in Georgia, Travis had offers from some of the biggest programs in college football. Everyone expected him to go to Florida State and become the next Deion, but he shocked the sports world by committing to Jackson State.

Jackson State isn’t even an FBS school, so why would Hunter chose to go there? Well, he just had to play under his ultimate role model. The opportunity to link up with a historically great two-way player like Deion was too good for Hunter to pass up, even if it meant forgoing playing Power 5 college football.

“Sometimes we are called to step into a bigger future than the one we imagined for ourselves,” Hunter said after committing to Jackson State. “For me, that future is at Jackson State University.”

Of course, that future lasted one season in the Mississippi capital, as he would follow his head coach to Boulder when Deion himself shocked everyone by signing with the Buffs.

Hunter earned a pretty penny while at Jackson State, but he nonetheless left a ton of money on the table by turning down Florida State and other college football powers. The SEC teams who offered Hunter have NIL collectives worth tens of millions of dollars, and you’re damn sure a sizable chunk would have gone to the most hyped high school recruit since Jadeveon Clowney.

Colorado wasn’t prepared for the NIL world, which was one reason why the Buffs had an exodus of transfers away from the school before the 2021 season. Karl Dorrell’s outfit struggled mightily as they lost players like Christian Gonzalez and Brendan Rice. Everything changed with Coach Prime, as the CU boosters committed millions to an NIL fund that would be used to bring in talent like Hunter, McClain and a number of impact transfers.

Hunter may have surprised folks by coming to Boulder, but he’s not missing out on anything in terms of NIL money. Hunter is currently the fourth highest paid player in the country, according to On3’s NIL valuations, as his estimated earnings are around $2.2 million this season. The only players ahead of him are Caleb Williams, Arch Manning and his own teammate, Shedeur Sanders. Hunter is having his cake — playing every snap with his childhood idol coaching — and eating it too.

While the Buffs sell out stadiums and set viewership records, Hunter has built a huge following on Twitch. His channel, db3_tip, has 24k followers tuning in to watch him play video games like NBA 2K ... sometimes while the Buffs are getting blown out. He’s also used his channel to break down his own game tape, like the above video where he describes his interception against TCU. Satisfied viewers are encouraged to donate directly to Hunter’s person, which is fully legal in the NIL era.

Thankfully Hunter won’t be posting during halftime anymore, as the two-way star is fully recovered from that aforementioned liver injury. He will be needed on both sides of the ball if the Buffs hope to reach bowl eligibility, as they have a loaded schedule down the stretch. CU will take on Oregon State on Saturday night, then play a ranked game against Utah later on. If you’re not watching, you better, because Hunter’s two-way superstardom may not last once he’s in the NFL.