Cotey: Hunter Joyer's power sets the bar higher

Tampa Catholic’s Hunter Joyer is a solid bet for a state title in the shot put, but “I’m a football player at heart,” he confesses.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

Tampa Catholic’s Hunter Joyer is a solid bet for a state title in the shot put, but “I’m a football player at heart,” he confesses.

TAMPA — Hunter Joyer bends, rotates, slides, explodes and releases, sending 12 pounds of solid metal soaring through the air.

He trots out to where his shot put landed, picks it up and does it all over again.

He doesn't plan on stopping until the state track and field meet, where he has emerged as a favorite to win a championship in his best event.

After coming in second at state weightlifting as a freshman and second last fall as the starting fullback for Tampa Catholic's state runnerup football team, Joyer sees this as a bit of unfinished business.

"That's what this is all about," he says.

So while his classmates spend spring break on a beach or in a mall, Joyer is bending, rotating, sliding, exploding and slinging metal balls on a field at USF with Crusaders throwing coach Adam Bulgrin.

Joyer recently broke football coach Bob Henriquez's school record in the shot put then broke his own record with a toss of 56 feet, 7 inches.

His goal: 60. And the title.

"It's definitely there," Bulgrin said. "It would be a huge disappointment if he didn't win. I mean, anyone can have a bad day … but we expect great things from him."

Bulgrin is working on Joyer driving his hips and his speed through the circle. Unlike a lot of throwers, Bulgrin says the 6-foot, 240-pound Joyer shows "finesse."

If not for a hamstring injury that has slowed him, Joyer could just as well be scoring points at meets in the 100 as well.

"A lot of the college coaches, they are impressed by how athletic I am when they hear about the lifting records," said Joyer. "I'm a football player at heart. Sometimes, they think I'm a muscle head."

The football coaches at USF told him Tuesday they thought he was underrated as an athlete. Later, they joined Stanford, Louisville and UConn in offering him a scholarship.

A former 1,000-yard rusher at Wesley Chapel who took on more of a true blocking fullback role last season, Joyer is expecting to start at tailback in the fall, where his 4.5 speed, vision and finesse should make him the Crusaders' prime threat.

For now, power is the emphasis for arguably Tampa Bay's strongest 16-year-old.

He grew up with older brother Kamran, now a sophomore football player at Louisville, the two of them going at it, squaring off in impromptu push-up challenges.

Together, they threw around iron plates like they were poker chips, betting each time who the stronger brother was. They pushed the family's 2006 Cadillac Escalade around to work their legs.

"People would think we ran out of gas," said Jack Joyer, the boys' father.

Hunter was always strong, like Jack and Kamran had been. As a kid, he was put to challenges by friends.

Betcha can't lift this, betcha can't lift that.

At the age of 13, he set a world record with a 375-pound bench press.

At 14, his freshman year at Wesley Chapel, he did 445 at the state weightlifting meet, finishing second. Kamran was ninth.

"He knew I was coming," Hunter said of Kamran. "But he was happy for me. It's a friendly rivalry … though he does like to do a little trash talking."

Tampa Catholic almost started a weightlifting team this year, but couldn't get enough competitors. Jack says if it had, his son probably would have broken the state record, as his best clean jerk is a 330 and he has bench pressed 485.

That has left him to concentrate on the shot put.

On setting records and winning.

He nods when Bulgrin suggests he could be throwing 60 feet by season's end.

Then he bends, rotates, slides, explodes and releases, sending 12 pounds of solid metal soaring through the air.

Cotey: Hunter Joyer's power sets the bar higher 04/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 12:17am]

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