BOONE — Appalachian State guard Baer Hunter has made a name for himself in more ways than one with the Mountaineers.
The obvious way is his name itself. Hunter’s given name is John Luther Hunter III. His nickname Baer was given to him by his grandfather, Frank Hunter, when Baer was a child in Detroit.
“My grandfather used to call me Baer,” Hunter said. “My name is John, but before that, I didn’t really want anybody to call me Baer. It was kind of embarrassing when I was little. My dad used to call me Baer before my friends and I always said no, call me John. But after my grandfather passed away I kept it to represent him.”
Hunter’s father, John Hunter, is the running backs coach at Wake Forest and Baer Hunter prepped at West Forsyth for former Watauga coach Adrian Snow in Clemmons. App State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said Hunter’s name is an original, but may not be the most unusual name in college football history.
“There are some Jim Bob Cooters out there,” Drinkwitz said of the former Tennessee player and current New York Jets assistant coach. “But we’ve got Baer Hunter and that’s pretty salty.”
Drinkwitz said Hunter, who for the record has never gone bear hunting, can be plenty salty while on the field, too.
“He graded out as the top offensive lineman in week one (a win over East Tennessee State),” Drinkwitz said. “He does a really nice job of playing the right way — playing physical and being a guy we can count on.”
The other way Hunter is making a name for himself is by being a two-year starter at right guard at Appalachian State. Hunter, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 280 pounds, filled a void at the position left by Colby Gossett, who was a fifth-round draft choice of the Minnesota Vikings and is currently with the Cleveland Browns.
Hunter said he didn’t necessarily circle Sept. 20 with a light blue pen in anticipation of the Mountaineers’ game with North Carolina. He said all games, be they against a Power Five conference team or anybody else, is a chance for him to be out on the football field.
Hunter said he did not talk to his father about Wake Forest’s 24-18 win over North Carolina on Sept. 13, or get any tips on the Tar Heels’ defensive line. He gets plenty of that from film study and the App State coaching staff.
“I work hard in practice,” Hunter said. “I work hard in games. To me, there is no difference because they are a Power Five. It’s another game that I have to go out and compete.”
Hunter came to Appalachian State as a defensive lineman. He filled in as a blocking tight end in the Mountaineers’ 31-28 win over Toledo in the 2016 Camellia Bowl after switching from defense to playing tight end against Georgia State in the Mountaineers’ 17-3 victory.
He was a starter in the 2018 season for a team that generated an average of 431 yards of total offense and averaged 35.9 points per game. Hunter is one of four starters along the App State offensive line, which he feels brings a confidence level to the line that may not belong to other teams.
“I believe it brings a swagger to the group,” Hunter said. “We’ve been out there before and I feel like I’m a lot better now than last year. I’m definitely not making the same amount of mistakes.”
Hunter says he is in a competition with other linemen when it comes to different type of blocks. He said offensive line coach Shawn Clark speaks to the entire group, just in case the linemen have to shuffle from one position to the next in order to keep the five best linemen on the field.
Hunter feels he can fill in should the need arise for him to switch positions.
“We’re out there every game trying to out-compete each other and trying to be the best offensive linemen in our group,” Hunter said. “We have a new guy on the outside, Cooper Hodges, and he’s out there to compete and he brings great energy every day.”
Hunter also said the linemen have to do more than just lift weights and block the first guy they see. He has to make sure he blocks the correct defender, or it could cost a touchdown, a game or leave a runner or quarterback injured.
“We have to call out protections and which one is live,” he said. “It’s calling out, like a corner blitz. You’d think an offensive linemen’s focus is just in the box, but you have to look at the safeties and the corners and the leverage that the corners are lined up on the receivers and things like that. People are thinking we’re blocking the big people in front of us and we’re looking all over the field to understand what the defense is trying to do in order for us to block it right.”
Hunter also takes pride in seeing the Mountaineers’ running game post big numbers. App State runner Darrynton Evans gained 234 yards in App State’s 56-41 win on Sept. 7.
“We definitely take pride in the amount of rushing yards Darrynton’s been able to get and what our other running the ball as well,” Hunter said. “Running the ball is what we do here at Appalachian State.”