Jarquez Hunter file photo

Neshoba Central’s Jarquez Hunter (27) drags two Canton defenders as he fights for extra yardage during their game in October 2020.

Jarquez Hunter lit up opposing defenses for Neshoba Central in high school. He’s hoping to do that against SEC defenses in college.

Hunter, who finished his senior year with 1,687 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns at running back, signed with Auburn Friday morning, putting a bow on a high school career that led to him twice being named The Meridian Star’s Premier Preps Football Player of the Year and Mr. Football in the MHSAA Class 5A this past season. 

The opportunity to play at an SEC school combined with his relationship with Auburn running backs coach Carnell Williams made the Tigers his top choice. His other finalists were Mississippi State, Southern Miss Iowa and Memphis.

“It means a lot to me,” Hunter said of having the chance to play at an SEC school. “All my hard work paid off — all the things I did this season. I worked my butt off to do what I had to do, and it blessed me with an SEC offer.”

Not only that, but according to Rockets head coach Patrick Schoolar, Auburn was the offer for which Hunter was holding out. He finally got it last month following the hiring of new Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin in late December.

“It’s his dream offer,” Schoolar explained. “We visited there three years ago, and since then there’s been no doubt if they’d have offered him three years ago, he’d have committed on the spot. It’s not often a kid does things the right way, doesn’t jump the gun and then gets the offer he wants. He got what he deserves.”

The feel of the campus stuck out to Hunter on past visits, and he said he feels a good connection to the coaching staff.

“I just like the coaches,” Hunter said. “I’ve been up there a few times, and it’s a beautiful campus. The environment is good.”

He also has a long-standing relationship with Williams, a former Auburn running back who was retained as running backs coach after Harsin was hired to replace Gus Malzahn.

“I feel like it’s going to be good playing for him, because he’s been in the position I’m in (when he was a player),” Hunter said.

Talent isn’t the only thing Hunter will bring to Auburn, Schoolar said. Hunter is the type of person who simply isn’t going to be denied an opportunity to get on the field. 

“Auburn is getting the ultimate competitor,” Schoolar said. “There’s no one in that running back room who, in his mind, is going to out-do him. He’ll come to work every day and compete. He’s a great teammate, but at the end of the day he wants to play and he wants to win. He’s that blue-collar Mississippi football player.”

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