COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Hunter Sellers is all about competition. His father, Lee played for Auburn from 1985-1988, and his older brother Trent now plays at New Mexico after starting his collegiate career at Georgia Tech. The drive for success and competition at home became second nature to Sellers, and now he is ready to bring that to Pittsburgh.
“My dad went to Auburn and played with Bo Jackson,” Sellers said. “Pat Dye was the head coach. I’ve heard a lot of stories. My sister plays volleyball in high school. Coming from a family of athletes, everything was a competition. Me and my brother would always go at it in everything. I formed that competinvess before I even got here (Woodward Academy).”
Now the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback is looking to take that competitive fire to the next level as a member of the Pittsburgh Panthers beginning next season. Sellers will be one of five Woodward Academy players jumping to FBS schools as part of 2020 recruiting classes. Together they played on a team that went 13-1 last season and made it all the way to the Class-4A state semifinals. All of it just fuels Sellers’ drive for competition even more.
“It’s a lot of competitiveness in every sport, not just football,” Sellers said of Woodward. “21 players signed (across all sports). In practice, it’s every day going against another D-I athlete. Their main goal is to try to go to college and get to the next level, and it creates very competitive practices.”
Sellers himself knows about how competitive Woodward is all the way across the board. Beyond playing football he also runs track, and the skills from the track are very applicable to his tools on the football field.
“You’re always trying to catch someone, beat someone in a race,” Sellers said. “It helps your competitiveness. It also helps with teamwork with the relays, the 4×100 and the 4×400. You really have to focus on those because if you mess up the hand-offs, it messes up the whole race.”
Really, the fact that he was even in position to make it to this point is a testament to his character. Sellers suffered two knee injuries and a shoulder injury at high school, and Woodward head coach John Hunt marveled at how impressive his comeback was.
“I think most other people, with the injuries and obstacles he had to overcome, would’ve probably thrown it in,” Hunt said. “But that’s not what Hunter is made of. He was a true warrior for us his entire career. He is a picture of perseverance.”
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He rehabbed from all of it to finish his senior season with 38 tackles (22 solo) and two interceptions, and it set him up well for the recruiting process.
“It helped me persevere,” Sellers said. “And it helped me understand that the path is not always going to go as you plan it. There’s going to be obstacles that you have to overcome, and I’ve already overcome a lot of those obstacles. I think that will help me at the next level.”
Sellers had offers from 18 schools when it was all said and done, including fellow ACC schools Boston College, Duke and Louisville. But he took an official visit up to Pittsburgh last June, and it was that trip combined with the recruiting of secondary coach Archie Collins that really sealed his decision. Sellers committed to Pitt just days after the visit, and signed his letter of intent in December.
“That was definitely when I made the decision, on my official,” Sellers said. “Everything just seemed to go into place, and that seemed like the right school for me at that time.”
“Coach (Pat) Narduzzi, Coach Collins, (defensive coordinator Randy) Bates and (safeties coach Corey) Sanders, they did a great job recruiting me. They stayed honest through the whole process; kept it 100 with me. Another big part of it was my official. It felt like a second home. They treated me like I was already part of the team, and I just felt like that was where I needed to be.”
The relationship with Collins was especially crucial to help get the commitment over the line, especially while Sellers was fighting through his injuries in his junior season.
“He was probably the most consistent coach that I talked to throughout all the schools and throughout the whole recruiting process,” Sellers said. “He stayed consistent; he stayed honest; he let me know that I was their No. 1 guy throughout the whole process. The main thing is they just kept it honest with me. Like a lot of schools my junior year when I got hurt, a lot of schools fell off the table. They stayed strong and recruited me hard.”
With the commitment in place, the next step is how Sellers will fit into the Pitt defense. Style-wise, Narduzzi’s system will give Sellers the opportunity to do something he loves doing, but didn’t get a lot of chances to do with Woodward — get after the quarterback.
“I’m excited about the way they use their DBs and corners,” Sellers said. “They blitz; they play aggressive; they press a lot. I think I fit well into that system. We play pretty aggressive here (Woodward). We liked to press a lot, but we don’t blitz as much with the DBs. I’m excited to get up there and blitz some.”
He won’t even be alone among Georgia cornerbacks in this Pitt recruiting class, as Creekside High School’s Rashad Battle also signed with the Panthers. And there are two more secondary players coming into the program with this class, as the two Georgia corners will be joined by Fort Lauderdale, Florida native Jahvante Royal and Duncan, South Carolina safety Buddy Mack.
That class will have a year to get their feet wet, as Pitt will return thee starters and one co-starter in the defensive secondary in 2020. But all four spots could come open for 2021, with corners Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock and safety Damar Hamlin set to graduate and safety Paris Ford likely to leave for the NFL.
“That first year I think is just a grind learning the system,” Sellers said. “If I get playing time, it’s really just a hope. But that second year, I’m really looking to get a lot of playing time under my belt.”
It’s going to be a very crowded room, and there will be a lot of competition in practice. But that’s just the way Sellers likes it.