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Gold and Black Illustrated Vol28, Digital1

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Page 28 of 74

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 1 29 D Da'Wan Hunte considers himself a cheater. Sort of. The fifth-year senior cornerback intensely prepares, studying so much film of opponents he feels like he knows the ins and outs of what every receiver might do. So, he's a cheat. "In a good way," he said, flashing his characteristically wide smile. "I try to take everything that a receiver likes to do, or that an offense likes to do, and find a way to take that away from them. It's been a success for me and that's been the approach I've taken." It's a reason why Hunte has turned himself into a pro- ductive player as an upperclassman, one whom Purdue counts on to lead from the secondary. His teammates re- spect Hunte for it too, voting the Miami native one of Pur- due's three defensive captains. "He has a whole lot of heart," fellow cornerback Kamal Hardy said. "We all look up to Da'Wan. We all feed off of him." Hunte, though, figures he's simply applying what he learned from the veterans before him. He had good players to model over the years, former teammates like Ricardo Allen, Frankie Williams, Anthony Brown and Landon Fe- ichter. He credits them with shaping him into the player he is today, Purdue's top cornerback and a consistent influence on the defense. "Those guys actually helped me in being able to break the game down," Hunte said. "Once I started picking up on things and learning, it helped me and bettered my game, so I take pride in preparing because I feel like that's the best way to beat your opponent, knowing what they're go- ing to do and what they like to do. "I know that I'm going to continue to get better when I put more and more time into that." It's a never-ending pursuit. In July, Allen, a starting safe- ty for the Atlanta Falcons, was in West Lafayette for a youth camp on Purdue's campus. And when he was here, he met up with Hunte — the two were training camp roommates in 2013, when Hunte was a true freshman and Allen a se- nior, and have had a close relationship since — to work out. Allen gave Hunte some pointers, as he's done over the years, the latest lesson being a message about getting into the top shape possible for training camp. Hunte and Allen share a kinship. Neither is imposing physically — Allen has bulked up (but not gotten taller) in the NFL, as he shifted from cornerback to safety — but they've learned to use what's available to them to be suc- cessful. For Hunte, that means gathering as much information as he can to overcome other limitations. It's why he contin- ues to listen to Allen or Williams or whoever else is around. It's why he so intently looks at film, whether that be on his tablet between classes or in the football offices or at home late at night. "I like to use my intelligence when it comes to the game of football," the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder said. "That's mainly what it is. I was taught that the game is 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical, and I live off that. That's how I approach the game. I'm not the biggest, I'm not the strongest or the fastest, but I'm going to find something to help myself be successful, and I'm going to compete every play, every rep I Born To Lead On the second day of Purdue's training camp, Da'Wan Hunte gathered the defense into a huddle. A scuffle had broken out minutes earlier, drawing the ire of Coach Jeff Brohm, and Hunte wanted to reiterate the message, that the Boilermakers needed to avoid ex- tracurriculars that wasted time. And teammates listened, first jokingly hugging a bunch of the offensive players, then cleaning up their act for the rest of practice. "It's one of those instances where someone has to speak up," Hunte, a captain, said later. "And I felt like at that moment, it was the right time. I'm not that type of guy who is just talking to be heard, so at that moment, I feel like guys needed to hear it, even if it wasn't coming from me. Just pulling those guys to the side and letting them know that at the end of the day, we are trying to compete, of course, but at the same time we're trying to protect one another, so that when Saturdays come we're all together." Cornerback Kamal Hardy, who transferred to Purdue before the '16 season, says he learned quickly to follow Hunte's lead. "Hanging around him has most definitely influenced me, on the field and off," Hardy said. "Even at the college level, he practices like a pro, and he always tells us that, 'Play as if we're on the next level.' He makes that clear." — Kyle Charters

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