Big game hunter

Four years ago, any story written about Cameron Hunt's athletic accomplishments was more likely to be about a first baseman than an offensive tackle.

His father played high school football, but went all in on baseball, eventually making his way into the Angels minor league system. In eighth grade, Hunt was set to follow that path, as he quit football and set his mind toward not picking it back up in high school. But those around him wouldn't be convinced as easily.

"My dad said I had to tell my mom first," Hunt said. "I grew up around Centennial football. I was the ball boy there. We watched all the games, and my mom was just waiting for it to be my time to go on the field."

There was no family pressure pushing Hunt back to football, but when Corona (Calif.) Centennial head football coach Matt Logan -- a close friend of the family -- joined the growing number of voices asking Hunt to reignite his football career as a high school student, Hunt acquiesced. Now, as Hunt stands as one of the nation's top offensive tackles, evidenced by the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2013 Under Armour All-America Game hitting the Centennial campus on Thursday morning, it's easy to assume the 6-foot-4, 267-pound Hunt simply flipped the football switch as a freshman and became a star. But that would ignore how much work went into getting Hunt to this point and the type of person he is.

Ultimately, the reason Hunt is excited about being selected to the Under Armour game is the same reason Hunt was selected at all. To be the best, you have to face the best. It's a lesson Hunt learned early in his high school football career.

After an injury sidelined him for part of his freshman season, Hunt began his sophomore year as the second or third option at offensive tackle.

"I was terrible," he said. "But I started working really hard and climbing up the depth chart."

An injury to a starter forced Hunt into the lineup, and it didn't take long for the first big test to arrive.

"Our second game was against (Santa Ana) Mater Dei," Hunt said. "It was a huge game against (current USC Trojans) Max Wittek and Victor Blackwell. I played really well, and from that moment, I knew I could compete at this level for a long time. The game of football is so much more fun when you can see yourself growing into a better player."

Hunt settled into the starting lineup and, after his junior season, became one of the more highly recruited linemen in Southern California. Offers from several Pac-12 schools followed, as did an eventual verbal commitment to California. Standout performances at the Oakland Nike Camp and the Opening this summer helped land him the Under Armour game honor, and on Thursday, the recognition hit home while Hunt accepted his jersey among friends and family.

"It's just an honor to be honored as an Under Armour Game All-American and for it to be in front of family, teachers, parents, coaches and all the other students," Hunt said. "It's good to have those people there because they've been supporting me all along. Them seeing me succeed is a great feeling because they've been helping me for so long."

Hunt, who didn't play baseball his junior year but will be on the team this spring, is concentrating on his senior football season and in all likelihood -- with Centennial's recent history -- a long playoff run. But with the jersey presentation, he couldn't help but cast his gaze forward a few months.

"The first time I saw the game was Matt Barkley's year," Hunt said of the Under Armour All-America Game held in 2009. "There have been a lot of great players to come before me in this game and it's an honor for me to be in the same game as guys like Barkley and A.J. Green. I want to go out there and have some fun."

Of course, when the competition picks up and Hunt is thrown into the mix, it's a safe bet that he will raise his game. It's what got him there in the first place.

"Playing against these great players makes you a better player," Hunt said. "You have to elevate your game because they're that good. I want to have fun, but I want to work my butt off and do well."