From Ivy League to HCU, Jalyx Hunt’s next stop could be the NFL

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When former Houston Christian defensive coordinator Shane Eachus reached out to Jalyx Hunt to gauge the Florida native’s interest in transferring to then Houston Baptist from Cornell, Hunt pulled out a map.

“I’m from Florida. I like the sunshine and the heat,” Hunt said. “Upstate New York is the complete opposite. It’s snowy, gray, and dark this time of year, and I felt I was being complacent. There were a mixture of factors at Cornell that tied into me wanting to leave.”

While many factors played into Hunt’s desire to transfer from the Big Red, the Huskies had one significant advantage over other interested teams - a climate similar to DeBary, Fla.

“When you look at a map, they’re directly across from each other. I’m from outside Orlando, and the weather in Houston is very similar,” Hunt said. “I liked the staff and the players here when I visited. I’m glad I decided to come to Houston.”

Since Hunt arrived in Houston, the Huskies have undergone a name change to Houston Christian. More importantly for Hunt, HCU had a new coaching staff following a 2-9 campaign in 2022, which meant he was again facing an uncertain future.

“I already knew the transfer process was lengthy, and it’d mean going to a different school in a different area and another new coaching staff,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t sure I would fit into the new staff’s scheme, but I love the guys here. If I have to go through staff and scheme changes, I’d rather do it with the people I already love here.”

Fortunately for Hunt, he was high on new head coach Braxton Harris’s list of players to recruit.

“You see that guy walk through the door, and you know you have to keep him. Whatever we had to do, we had to keep him,” Harris said. “I wanted him to know the direction of the program and how he’d be a big factor in helping us succeed. I laid out my vision, and Jalyx believed in it, too.”

“He was honest, and I appreciate people who are honest. It’s important that someone tell you what is needed, even if it’s hurtful to hear,” Hunt said. “Coach Harris uses three words, accountability, persistence, and enthusiasm, and he showed us we could trust him by exhibiting those three characteristics every day.”

To say everything has worked out for the benefit of HCU and Hunt would be an understatement. The Huskies have already secured the program’s first winning season since sponsoring football in 2014 and could finish tied for second in the Southland Conference with a win at home over UIW on Saturday.

That’s not to say it was an easy transition.

“When Coach Harris got here, he told us that we need to start fast and finish stronger to change our losing culture,” Hunt said. “During game week, Monday is our day off, so we have a choice to make on Tuesday. Coach started ‘Commit to Tuesdays’, and that’s when you have to make a choice to go fast, hard, aggressive, and enthusiastic.”

‘Commit to Tuesdays’ meant players arrived early in the morning before being split into four or five groups led by team captains. Harris had the teams complete an obstacle course and different circuits on the playing field and around campus.

“It was a competition, and it was dirty and grimy. You had to make a choice when you went out there because you stuck out like a sore thumb if you were lollygagging,” Hunt said. “It was on us to hold each other accountable. I like Tuesdays now but didn’t like them too much when Coach Harris first got here.”

The hard work has paid off for Hunt, with the senior earning invites to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he will have the opportunity to spend a week working out in front of NFL scouts. Hunt is the first player in program history invited to one of the premier showcases for senior collegiate athletes.

“That’s a credit to Jalyx and the work he’s put in to get to this point. And it’s a credit to our strength and conditioning staff led by Trevor Kana,” Harris said. “Last Friday, we did a walkthrough at Barbers Hill High School on our way to Lake Charles, and Jalyx Hunt’s running on scout team kickoff to help our kickoff return team. He does everything with a great attitude and a smile every day.”

At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds, Hunt possesses the size, speed, and skills to play defensive end and linebacker in the NFL. While the hybrid position has become the hottest trend in football, Hunt didn’t have experience playing on the defensive line until he arrived at HCU.

“I pride myself on my football IQ, so having to admit that I didn’t know what I was doing at a position was wild for me,” Hunt said. “Coach (Issac) Mooring, our defensive line coach, showed me what I needed to do and how it incorporates into attacking the offense using my skills and assets.”

Hunt has latched onto the hybrid role and hasn’t allowed the attention that comes from having 31 of 32 NFL teams attend practice at some point during the season to watch the rising star.

“I can tell you he has not changed at all in how he goes about his work and his mentality. He’s been phenomenal in handling all the attention,” Harris said. “I can’t imagine being 22 or 23 years old and knowing that three NFL organizations are on the sidelines to watch me. I’d probably be a jerk, but Jalyx hasn’t done that.”

Hunt hopes the next stop in a journey that began in DeBary and has traveled through Cornell to Houston Christian continues onto the NFL. His attention will turn to the NFL Draft once the Huskies season ends on Saturday, and he has already set his sights on being among the best to play on Sundays.

“I see myself playing the hybrid position in the NFL. I’m still new to the position, and I know I’ve got a lot more to learn about the position,” Hunt said. “I watch Micah Parsons and want to be at that level one day. I have a lot of work to do, but it’s something I can and will be doing in the future.”

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