Trying to tackle Bountiful's Jakob Hunt is a pretty significant health risk.
If defenders do manage to catch up with the sturdy but swift running back, they usually can count on a stiff arm right to the face before they hit the turf. Defenses all over the state are finding out the senior captain packs a pretty powerful punch not always figuratively.
"He's got that nastiness in him," fellow Bountiful senior Rylee Gutavai said. "If he sees you coming, he's gonna give it to you. He's gonna hit you."
That's no joke. The Braves' featured back has pounded his way to more than 800 yards, and his 15 rushing touchdowns are by far the most of any Class 4A running back. Most importantly, Bountiful is 5-1 and appears well on the way to the playoffs.
Hunt plays with a brutal physical style that reflects his previous stints as a linebacker and fullback. But that doesn't mean the 5-foot-8, 205-pound rusher isn't fast. His speed after the second level is what makes it so hard to stop him from getting to the end zone.
"He's our fastest guy, and he's our strongest guy," Bountiful coach Larry Wall said. "There's no doubt that he leads by example. We work him to death, and he just can handle whatever we need him to do."
As a child, Hunt took after his father's passion: tennis. To this day, the senior is a tremendous tennis player, and he was a semifinalist for Bountiful in the state tournament in first doubles last season.
Hunt credits his father, former Weber State tennis player Roderick Hunt, with building an early habit for conditioning. He did agility drills early on, which helped develop the agile feet that would pound the football turf for a few extra yards.
But pee wee football stole Hunt's heart early on. When he played running back, he quickly found he had a tool that could keep runners off of him: his stiff-arm.
"My coach used to joke about me doing the Heisman pose or playing too many video games," he said. "But when I realized it worked, I started to use it a lot more."
That skill, as well as his powerful legs, have been made all the more dangerous with Hunt's profound weight room ethic. He holds the top lifts for the bench press and power clean, regardless of position.
Gutavai, who is Hunt's frequent training partner, said Hunt's quiet, blue-collar approach to the game draws admiration from his teammates and school friends. He even was nominated homecoming king just a few weeks ago.
When he carries the ball, his line goes the extra mile to spring him loose. They know if it works, he'll get the job done.
"He's the kind of guy who gets in the huddle and pumps everybody up," Gutavai said. "He's the first one out and the last one to leave. He's a humble kid, and that's why he has everyone's respect."
He has his opponents' respect because of his nose for the goal line. Hunt got his last yard of 142 yards and his last score of three touchdowns on the game's last play, a 30-27 overtime win against Highland last week.
Hunt said he lives for those moments.
"I just think you have to carry your own weight and finish it up yourself," he said. "No one else can do it for you. It's a team game, and I can't let the team down."
That no-frills, no-nonsense, no-time-off approach has carried Hunt this far and could help carry the Braves back to the semifinals. This time, they hope to go a bit further.
"We knew Jake was always going to be a big part of what we do," Wall said. "He's as good a tailback as we've had here, right up with the best of them. He's the guy who steps up and walks the walk."
Jakob Hunt pounding the rock
• Hunt leads Class 4A with 15 rushing touchdowns this year.
• The senior running back also has 802 yards for the season in only six games.
• Has run for 30 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards in his career.