One of the nation's best, Pearson breaks down why he chose Virginia

Brad Franklin, Publisher
Cavs Corner
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Kohl's Kicking

Three-star kicker Hunter Pearson knew the process was winding down. He knew he really liked UVa. And he knew he wanted to visit. Sometimes in recruiting, that's all it takes to get a big weekend started.

And that's how the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Seneca (SC) native became the first of five commitments to announce their decisions over the course of roughly 24 hours this past weekend.

But the seeds for his decision to pick UVa came well before his visit last week.

"I knew I wanted to get it done," Pearson told CavsCorner this weekend. "I wanted to make sure I took the time I needed so I could make the right decision. But I didn't want to wait too long. I was ready for it to be over. I was definitely ready.

"I always thought it would be better to get it done in the summer," he added. "I wanted to be able to relax during my senior year and focus on my last year and my season and finishing out. I didn't want to think about the recruiting stuff anymore."

With offers from Indiana, UVa, and West Virginia, as well as interest from Penn State, Pearson saw a great opportunity in Charlottesville as well as a real familiarity with the coaching staff.

"I feel a real connection with the coaches at Virginia more so than anywhere else," he explained. "I like the staff a lot. The academic upside is amazing. It's an extremely good school. And I think it's a program on the rise because Coach Mendenhall and his staff are going to do big things."

UVa's kicking situation has been a bit in flux recently and even after the Wahoos signed three-star Under Armour All-American Brian Delaney in the class of 2017, they needed more help.

Jamie Kohl, who is the director of Kohl's Kicking, has worked with Pearson and believes UVa has one of the best prospects at his position nationally.

"Hunter has a great frame that should allow him to continue to progress as a kicker," Kohl told CavsCorner. "He has been working with our staff consistently for the last year and half and has shown a great improvement in his ball striking and consistency off the ground on field goals. His kick off leg is very good (top 5-7 in the 2018 class). He has tremendous work ethic and has done everything coach Anthony Guigliano has asked to him to do. He's very coachable and has been very impressive at multiple events this winter and spring.

"Hunter is a smart kid who should fit in well in the UVa environment," Kohl added. "Brian Delaney is a punter who can kick FGs and has huge upside as a P/KO performer. Brian has the ability to kick but I feel he will welcome Hunter to the program and hopefully Hunter will allow Brian to focus on punting and kickoffs."

"I had known of him for a while and he reached out to me before I committed and then after I did as well," Pearson said of Delaney. "I've talked to him a little bit and I definitely think we should be able to be a good combo."

In fact, it was that level of need that also played a role in his decision.

"I like the fact that I feel like I can come in and really make a big impact," Pearson said. "They were kind of in a sticky situation before getting Brian and me so I feel like I was really wanted and needed there and that definitely helped to persuade me to go there. I felt like I can really help the program.

"They actually offered me before they ever saw me in person," he added. "I got an offer over the phone from Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall and then went to camp just so Coach Mendenhall could see me in person. I committed there after that camp."

Spending time in Charlottesville last Friday, Pearson and his family were able to get everything they needed from the visit during the day and also everything they needed from the football side that night.

"We kind of did an all-in-one deal," he added. "We got there the day before camp and got up and did a tour of the campus and facilities that morning, met everybody, did all that. Then I went back to the hotel and rested before the camp that night. So we kind of did it all at once.

"I definitely was thinking about going ahead and committing," Pearson added. "I had figured that would be the place for me, based on everything I know about them and the staff and the school. But I also definitely still needed to see it for myself first."

The connection he's formed with assistant coach Kelly Poppinga was important in his ultimate decision but really, he says, the entire coaching staff made him feel like a part of the family.

"I talked to Coach Poppinga the most definitely so I definitely connected with him but it was also Coach Mendenhall too," Pearson said. "I really like Coach Mendenhall. I think he's different from my head coaches and in a good way. And really, everybody on the staff once we got there felt great to be around. They make you feel like family. Everybody was really good."

Having played a number of sports growing up, Pearson is thankful to be in the position he's in even if he took a sort of interesting route to get there.

"Well I started out in soccer but I grew up playing everything from baseball to football to soccer to basketball," he recalled. "I stopped playing soccer in eighth grade because I wanted to play football and they were in the same season. But I never thought I was going to kick. I didn't go out there as a kicker. I was a wide receiver. But one day at practice, they were doing kickoff team and the kicker was doing too well and some of the guys were telling the coach that I played soccer so I could kick. And so I went out there and kicked and it just kind of too off from there. And here I am now."

Now, with his college choice made, he can focus on his senior year.

"It's definitely exciting," he said. "You don't have to worry about anything anymore. You can start getting to know the other guys in the same class as you, you can start talking to them. It feels good to be able to be a part of it and help recruit other players. If I see somebody putting out that they got an offer or something or maybe Virginia is in their top two, I'll shoot them a message. I want to try and get as many people as we can to Virginia."

Kohl believes that in signing Delaney and now picking up a commitment from Pearson that UVa has done a great deal to solve its kicking issues for years to come.

"The nice thing about having two strong-legged players on the team is that UVa will have two quality options on KO's," he said. "This should help their average field position in the coming seasons. I feel both Delaney and Pearson have upper half of the ACC kickoff legs.

"Bronco and the rest of the staff have made a statement that they will be great on special teams and that is a core belief of their program," Kohl added. "Great special teams starts with your kicker and punter. UVa did a good job of identifying talent and winning recruiting battles to land these players."


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