W&J Football Feature: Hunter Creel
College football fans travel across the country to support their favorite teams every weekend. It is one of the many traditions of the sport, but even the most dedicated fans didn’t have an opening weekend like Lance and Kelly Creel.
Their youngest of two sons, Dustin, was playing his first game as a wide receiver for the Eastern Michigan Eagles in Muncie, Ind., against the Ball State Cardinals on Thursday, Aug. 30. EMU came up short, falling 37-26, but Dustin’s two catches for 25 yards in his collegiate debut made the 325-mile trip from Industry, Pa., worthwhile.
However, that was just the beginning. The other son, Hunter, was beginning his senior season for W&J in North Carolina. Luckily, Friday provided a travel day for the 615-mile trek from Muncie to Fayetteville, N.C. Lance and Kelly made it safely and were all smiles in the bleachers on the blistering hot day at Monarch Stadium when Hunter caught a 2-yard touchdown pass on the Presidents’ first possession of the year.
“Our parents definitely are our biggest fans,” said the 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Western Beaver High School. “They know stuff about our careers that we don’t even know.”
Hunter admits that conversations at home are usually “all sports, all the time”. So much so that his mother has turned into a pretty knowledgable sports fan.
“I would say that she knows a lot about sports, more than the average mom,” said Creel. “At first, she might not have been into every sport, but she’ll surprise you. She knows her football.”
Hunter visited many of the PAC schools after graduating from Western Beaver, one of the smaller high schools in the WPIAL’s single-A classification. He graduated in a class of 55 and the football team only had a roster of 31 boys, forcing Hunter to play just about every position (wide receiver, cornerback, kick returner, punt returner, placekicker and punter).
“I hated coming off the field, but it wasn’t often,” he added. “A lot of us played both ways. Our coaches put us through many days of conditioning on the track. We had to be in good shape.”
Hunter relished his senior season, because he finally had a chance to play on the same team with his brother. Dustin played the other cornerback position and was on the opposite side of the field on offense as well as a wide receiver.
“Playing on the same team was a really cool experience,” noted Hunter. “The coaches saw that he could be a big help to us. I thought we read each other pretty well on the field. It wasn’t a big advantage, but I think it helped on a couple of plays during the season.”
The Golden Beavers defeated Beth-Center 38-7 in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs that season, but dropped a 35-14 decision to Rochester, ending Hunter’s high school career.
He eventually chose to attend Washington & Jefferson over other PAC members and Robert Morris. He felt the W&J coaches were committed to achieving Hunter’s No. 1 goal...to win a championship.
During his first two years with the team, he played mostly junior varsity and developed a nickname that still sticks today, “Highlight Creel”. He earned that moniker after producing a number of acrobatic catches during games and practice.
Last year, Hunter earned a starting spot on the varsity team and showed W&J fans that the nickname was well deserved. He had four catches for 60 yards in the 2011 opener at Juniata and then caught a 14-yard touchdown pass a week later versus nationally-ranked Delaware Valley. In week three at Bethany, Creel leapt over a Bison defensive back in the third quarter and sprawled to haul in a 13-yard touchdown pass which springboarded the Presidents to a big second half.
Hunter finished the season as the team’s second-leading receiver with 43 catches for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
“That catch against Bethany was probably my favorite one since I’ve been playing football,” said Creel, a three-sport scholastic athlete (football, baseball, basketball). “I told myself that I had to show the coaches that they made the right decision to start me.”
As a senior, Hunter continues to show up in big games. He had a career day in week two with eight receptions for 109 yards and two scores against ninth-ranked St. John Fisher. When Alex Baroffio moved to quarterback last week, Hunter became the No. 1 target and he produced with a key 30-yard touchdown grab late in the first half. Hunter has already equaled his touchdown total from last year.
The business major is just as excited about his brother’s success than his own. Because W&J played at night two weeks ago, Hunter was able to watch Eastern Michigan take on Purdue on television. Dustin had three catches for 49 yards.
“I watched Dustin play on the Big 10 Network last week. I am proud of what he is accomplishing.”
Some websites have projected Dustin (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) as a potential NFL talent. Hunter is not sure of his own future, but plans on using the business degree he will earn in May.
“I knew getting into the business field is something I wanted to do from the start,” concluded Creel. “A lot of people tell me that I’d be great in sales. I really don’t know why they say that, but maybe I’ll give it a try.”