Vaught's Views: Hunt has unique perspective on enjoying sports

December 24, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

While football players at Boyle County and Danville got early Christmas presents when their teams again won state football championships, Harrodsburg senior David Hunt has a far different perspective this holiday season he was willing to share.

"I think most people don't look at football as just having a chance to play and being thankful for that chance like I did," said Hunt.

"I like the game just as much as someone from Danville or Boyle County. I just enjoyed being able to play and have a good time because at one time, I didn't think I would ever get that chance or even be here today."

That's because Hunt was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 6 years old. Instead of spending his early school days playing with friends, Hunt usually was in a hospital.


Even today he can't recall exactly how he managed to keep up with his schoolwork, other than remembering teachers coming to his hospital room.

"I went through chemotherapy twice," the 18-year-old said. "We moved from Winchester to Jeffersontown so we would be closer to Kosair Children's Hospital, where I stayed.

"I couldn't really think about any future except if I was going to make it or not. I still remember just laying in a hospital bed and watching everybody cry when they would come to see you because there was nothing they could do to help you and they thought you were going to die.

"When I wasn't in the hospital, I had friends but I couldn't go to school. Friends would come over to visit, but I couldn't go out. I just had to stay inside, and they would stand outside. It wasn't much fun."

Still, Hunt was always a sports fan. Some of his fondest memories from his childhood days were watching Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominate the NBA.

Perhaps that helped provide the inspiration for him to somehow believe he would one day be able to play sports, including football, his favorite sport.

"I just remember sitting on my bed, watching the Bulls and hoping one day I could play a sport," Hunt said.

Eventually, he started to get better. He was given permission by his doctors to play basketball. Finally, in the sixth grade, he was told he could play football.

"I still don't know what happened," Hunt said. "But they said I was a cured patient. I look at it as a miracle. I went through chemotherapy twice. They put me on a new medication. They gave me bone marrow taps in my back.

"I still have a lot of back problems. I can't sit up straight and my back always bothers me. But at least I am cured."

Hunt was a 125-pound defensive back and receiver for the Pioneers last season, the final year of his football career. He said he had several "nicks and bruises" each year.

He broke his arm his eighth-grade season. He broke a finger last year. His back usually hurt, and last season he even missed two games because of a neck injury.

"You just have to be tough. If it hurts, the pain will go away. I learned that when I was young," Hunt said. "I was a little scared over the neck injury, but I knew it wasn't related to anything in my past. I really haven't worried about the leukemia since they said I was cured. Or at least not worried about it every day like I did before."

Hunt doubts that many of his football teammates or friends know how sick he once was.

"I am not going to go around telling people that I almost died. That's just not something you talk about. If anyone asks, I'll tell them what happened. But I don't bring it up because I know it would be hard for most people my age to even understand," Hunt said.

Perhaps that's why he'll always look back on his football career with a different perspective than players who measured success by winning state championships. For Hunt, every day he played was a championship.

"It's a good thing to set high expectations, but no one should get all caught up only in sports," Hunt said. "Life is bigger than any sport. You should take what you have and enjoy it. If that is sports, then ride it all the way. If not, do something else and don't worry. You shouldn't be overly concerned with winning and losing.

"You should play every game like it is your last because you never know what can happen in life. That's what I did. You don't know when your chances to play are going to run out, or if you will ever even get the chance to play.

"But sports can also be a good thing. It gets you away from other things. When I played, I didn't worry about anything else in the world during the game. It gave my mind a chance to rest."

Hunt may join the Air National Guard after graduation in May as a way to help finance his college education. He's also looking forward to seeing Harrodsburg teammate Mark Dunn play college football.

"I couldn't dream about much for a long time, but now I can dream about going to college, being in the Air National Guard and watching friends play college sports," Hunt said.

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