Below is Stanley Hunter's article in
epilepsyUSA, Issue 6, 2010
It was Tuesday afternoon, July 28, 2009, and
I was sitting in Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney’s office
discussing my future in college football. A few weeks before, I had
suffered four of the worst seizures I had ever endured and had been
pulled from all team activities. This meeting, along with other
countless meetings with my trainers, doctors and neurologists, ended
with the same result—I had to quit football. This was by far one of
the toughest decisions I have ever had to make: giving up what I
thought I lived for because of a condition that I still did not
fully understand. I did not know what was happening at that moment
in my life, but I did know I had to move on. I believe that
everything happens for a reason and this was no exception. That may
sound crazy coming from a former high school football star with a
great shot at a future with the NFL, but in reality this was only
one of many obstacles I have overcome throughout my life.
When I was 10 years old, my mother was sentenced to a 25-year to
life sentence for trafficking cocaine. My father was never around
during this time, so my childhood was the exact opposite of what a
child’s life should be. Though my mom never abused drugs, I was
frequently in the midst of drug abusers. It was not unusual for my
sister and me to see pounds of drugs on the table, countless amounts
of cash on the floor and many different people we didn’t know
constantly in and out of our numerous residences. I can remember
being in our home with no food, water or lights on many occasions.
However, I was never abused in any way and I still have a close
relationship with my mother. I was just compelled to grow up faster
than most other kids.
After my mother went to prison, my sister and I went to live with my
father. Though I always wanted to have a relationship with my dad,
the experience was daunting. I felt like my father owed me something
because of the time we spent apart, but he had other priorities. He
had a new wife and was responsible for raising nine other children,
all but two by different women. I felt alone; I was hurt. I started
to question why I was dealt such a bad hand in life at such a young
Not long after I went to live with my father, I picked up a football
for the first time. I was a freshman in high school and I had never
played sports because of my mother’s lifestyle. I was pretty good,
and football gave me a sense of purpose. I finally began to feel
more like somebody. I had friends, I had coaches who cared about me,
but most of all I had a chance to take all of my frustrations out on
the football field. However, a year later, adversity struck again.
As a sophomore in high school, I was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Although I suffered a number of seizures in class and at home, they
were under control at this time. Soon I was cleared to play again,
and in my mind that was all that mattered. Football had become my
life, and by the time I was a senior, I was being recruited by most
colleges in the country. I would end up choosing to play for Clemson
University in Clemson, S.C., so I could stay closer to my mom and
the rest of my family. My life was finally making sense.
Just when I felt like everything was going my way, it happened
again. I did not make the qualifying test score to enroll at Clemson
University. For the second time in my life, I had hit rock bottom. I
felt like I had let everyone down who supported me, but most
importantly I had let myself down. All of a sudden, I was the bad
guy and everyone had something to say. In the midst of all of my
turmoil, I began to realize who my real friends and family were.
Once again, I was at another crossroads. I had to make a quick
decision about what I wanted to do with my life. I could either
become another statistic or beat the odds and make something of
myself. I spent many long nights crying and many days hiding behind
closed doors. Ultimately I knew I had what it took to pull myself
together and not give up. I worked two jobs, enrolled at a small
technical school and studied to re-take the SAT. In the spring of
2007, I qualified and enrolled at Clemson. By working long days and
nights doing manual labor jobs, I learned a valuable lesson. I knew
that no matter what else I did in my life, I needed to get my
college degree. Given my background, I honestly couldn’t afford not
to go to school and make something of life. My family had not taken
advantage of education—I had to.
When I arrived on campus in January 2008, I felt like a new man. I
was on the football team and I was ready to make an impact. However,
it wasn’t long before I faced another setback. I had to have knee
surgery because of an old high school injury and also began to have
a few more seizures. My surgery went well and the team doctors and
my neurologists worked together to get my medication to a point that
I could practice again and prepare for the season. At this time, I
have to admit that football was the main thing I was thinking about.
As long as I knew I could play again, I was not concerned about my
health. That would soon change.
I started my freshman season as a third string linebacker and worked
my way up the chart to even start a few games. Then the seizures
came back and I was forced to miss more than half of spring
practice. Going into summer workouts, I felt like my health was
fine, but I was terribly mistaken. I began to experience more severe
seizures and on a more frequent basis. I was having seizures back to
back to back. Each seizure put me in the hospital for a few days. I
was starting to experience memory loss and more significant recovery
time. This was devastating to me and my family. I was forced to
rethink my future in football, and once again, I hit another low
point in my life. I could not understand why things continued to
happen to me. I blamed everyone, including myself. I was forced to
make a final decision to hang up my cleats and focus on my health
and obtaining my college degree. My football dreams were over.
All of a sudden, my life had totally shifted, but if I had learned
anything in life it’s that when one door closes, another one opens.
My coach offered me an opportunity to remain on scholarship and work
as a student coach. Now I had an opportunity to further my education
and earn my college degree. I also had an opportunity to remain part
of the team and experience coaching, something I had always wanted
to try after my playing days were over.
At this point in my life, I’m the happiest I have ever been. I have
experienced all kinds of adversity, and I’m still blessed to be
standing on two feet. I know plenty of people who were in my same
shoes growing up who ended up dead or behind bars. When I have an
opportunity to speak to groups, people always want to know how I
made it. I can only thank God for where I am today. I don’t blame my
parents for my childhood because I learned valuable lessons from it.
Not having clothes, shoes or toys like other kids has made me
appreciate the things I have today. I don’t blame my coaches,
teachers or friends for things that have happened because all those
situations have made me a better person.
I’m going to be a better father one day, a better brother, a better
husband and friend because of my struggles and my ability to turn a
negative into a positive. I never complain about my life because I
know it could always be worse. Though most people tell me I’m crazy
for choosing not to play football again, I know that there is more
to my life than football or sports. My athletic talent opened doors
for me at Clemson University. Now my life experience, education and
positive outlook will open doors and take me far. In 10 years, it
won’t matter how many tackles I made or how many touchdowns I
scored, what will matter is the impact I had on other people’s
The In My Own Words column gives people whose lives
are affected by epilepsy the chance to share experiences and
solutions to their problems. These are real stories by real people
that show strength, resilience, optimism and courage. We hope they
will inspire others.
Below is Stanley Hunter's article in
Go Upstate Preps, 7/1/2013
Fire still burns for Hunter
Hunter is on the sidelines for a reason — he wants to be there,
because he’s been there.
The first-year Spartanburg High School assistant defensive coach
wants to make better players, but mostly he wants to make better
young men. He wants to instruct, to mold, to shape. He wants his
players to come to him with questions and with problems.
Hunter, known by legions of Byrnes High and Clemson fans as
“Buster,” once wreaked havoc on opposing high school offenses. As
then-Byrnes defensive coordinator Chris Miller’s 3-3-5 offense came
into vogue, Hunter was the prototypical linebacker in the scheme,
dancing at the line of scrimmage, shifting all over the field,
racking up tackles as quickly as the Rebels were picking up
All that on-field chaos was nothing compared to Hunter’s life. He
found a refuge in football, and a family in his team and coaches.
“I tell people all the time that those Byrnes coaches — not just
Coach Miller, not just Coach (Bobby) Bentley, but that entire
coaching staff changed my life,” Hunter said. “My Mom’s been in
prison my whole life. When I got to high school, I hadn’t made up my
mind yet which way I was gonna go. Personally, I think at about 13
or 14 you go either left or right. That’s how it was for me, anyway.
You’ve got friends who get in trouble, and you have friends who play
sports. I wanted to be one of those kids who would make my Mama
proud. I wanted to make my whole family proud.”
Hunter said the environment fostered by the coaches at Byrnes was
something he needed desperately at the time, and something he’ll
“When I went to school, I was around my brothers,” he said. “Those
coaches were like uncles and fathers to me. I saw how they acted
around their own kids, around my teammates. Coach Miller told me if
I ever needed to talk to anybody about anything, not just football,
but life, I could come to him. Now, we talk about everyday. That
means the world to me.”
Hunter continued his career at Clemson and was climbing the Tigers’
depth chart before his playing days were cut short by seizures
connected with epilepsy. He was quickly added as a student-coach for
the program, but the competitive fire still burned. It still does
today, and it drives Hunter to be a better coach.
“I didn’t leave the game on my own terms, so this means a lot more
to me,” Hunter said. “I didn’t want to quit playing football. If I
could get back out there, me and Coach (Dabo) Swinney would be
meeting right now. But if I can fulfill that desire one more time,
whether it’s coaching, working out, or just being around these guys,
I’m looking to do it. I can’t hit anybody. If I could slip on some
pads, I would. But I can’t so I’m going to coach my heart out just
like I played my heart out.”
That he gets to do that on Miller’s staff at Spartanburg is a bonus
for both men.
“Having Buster here is great,” Miller said. “The bond that we made
is not just the usual player/coach thing. To carry it over and keep
that friendship and work again together, it means a lot to me. All
that I taught him, he’s trying to do with our kids, and he’s doing a
Hunter echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“I look up to Coach Miller in every way,” he said. “As a man, as a
coach, as a father, as a friend. He’s a model citizen for me. I feel
the same about Coach Bentley, about Coach (Brian) Lane at Woodruff,
about Coach (Mark) Dempsey at Dorman. There are a lot of guys who
have branched off from what we had back then, but we still talk, we
still love on each other when we see each other, and it’s just an
amazing feeling to be part of that coaching family now.”
Hunter’s literally got family on the field at Spartanburg, as senior
defensive back Doug Jeter is his younger brother. Hunter is
understandably proud of Jeter’s success.
“I see so much of myself in him,” Hunter said. “He makes me proud.
As a father now, he’s almost like an extension of my own son. I love
him that much. I want to feed him everything I know. He’s a lot
faster than me. He’s quicker. He’s stronger. He’s got great upside,
and it’s going to be great to see him in the future.”
Jeter enjoys learning from his brother, on the field and off.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I know I can come to him with a
problem. He shows me how to deal with things, he calms me down, and
he tells me what I’m doing and what I need to do.”
Miller sees a clear distinction between coach and brother when
Hunter and Jeter are on the field.
“I think they understand the relationship,” Miller said. “They keep
it on the field. Buster coaches him hard, Doug respects him for it,
and when they walk off the field, they’re back to just being
In addition to his coaching duties, Hunter is reaching out to youth
with a charitable foundation. The Forever 17 foundation, established
in partnership with Hunter and Jamie Harper, his roommate at Clemson
and now a running back with the New York Giants, stresses the
importance of following your dreams and working hard.
“Jamie handles the corporate side, and I handle a lot of the
footwork,” Hunter said. “We talk every day and try to come up with
ideas. Everything I learned at Byrnes and Clemson, I’m trying to
reiterate. There’s going to be adversity, but you can’t give up.
We’re trying to do everything we can do to bring these kids to the
point they feel like they can follow their dreams no matter what.”
Most of the organization’s work includes community events, speaking
engagements and work with churches, schools, and corporations.
Hunter finds that his past helps him relate with young people from
many walks of life.
“There’s so much negative going on, man,” he said. “I lived it. I
lived in every project in the hood. I grew up in it. I’ve seen it,
and I know what it’s like. I know how hard it can be when you play
sports, and your coaches tell you to be good, but every day when you
go home, all you see is bad. I understand that. We’re just trying to
spread positivity and keep these kids out of trouble.”
Hunter is also keeping an eye on his own health. He said it’s been
almost three years since he suffered a seizure, and he’s coping with
his illness by not focusing on it.
“I’ve had to learn as an adult that you can’t worry about things you
can’t control,” he said. “I can take care of my health, but I can’t
control epilepsy. I can’t control those seizures. I’m just living my
life. If something happens, I’ll deal with it. But I’m done worrying
about things I can’t control. I just try to wake up every day and
put a smile on somebody else’s face.”
Team Forever 17
Team forever 17 was founded by Stanley Hunter and Jamie Harper, and
is working toward preparing young people to realize their goals.
Then name stems from Hunter’s jersey number at Clemson, which was
worn by one teammate in each game the year after Hunter had to step
away from the game due to a medical condition. For more information
on the organization, go to
Here's a link to the actual article