Torii Hunter hadn't seen his son in about three months when Torii Hunter Jr. made the trip from South Bend to Detroit for a weekend in mid-April. Hunter Jr. -- a rising sophomore wide receiver for Notre Dame -- showed up weighing 190 pounds, 18 more than he was listed at in high school.
"He looks huge," Hunter said with a hint of amazement. "But I had to test him and jump him to let him know I'm still daddy."
Hunter Jr. hasn't made a name for himself yet at Notre Dame, seeing as he redshirted last fall following a broken leg suffered early in 2013. But his coaches are confident that time will come when Torii Hunter becomes associated with football, not just baseball.
"He is absolutely physically very gifted and right in the mix with all those young guys as far as what we feel like he can do potentially down the road," offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said. "Like a lot of young guys, the more he sees things, the more he does things, the better he's going to be. He's not where we need him to be yet but you can see so many positive things that are going to happen there moving forward. We're just trying to speed up the process as fast as we can."
Hunter Jr. played outside and in the slot during spring practice, with coaches moving him around largely on the second team offense. While he lacks in-game experience at the college level, the guys he's competing with for playing time (outside of DaVaris Daniels) don't have a ton of Saturday reps, either. It's a fluid situation that won't be sorted out until fall camp, and which ever wide receiver does wind up playing the most will certainly have earned it.
His father said Hunter Jr., though, has always been up for the kind of battle he's facing for playing time.
"He loves the challenge. That's a no-brainer," Hunter said. "That's something that I always said, when you're out there and you're in a pressure situation, that's what you want. The pressure situation is to get out there and get some playing time, because you got Justin Brent, Will Fuller, DaVaris coming back, Corey Robinson -- you got all those guys. But they're all teammates, they're all competitive and all try to go out there and get more playing time. But at the same time, they're out for the same common goal, to win together. I'm pretty sure they'll find a way to do it."
Add C.J. Prosise, Amir Carlisle and Chris Brown to that group of players Hunter rattled off and that's the competition. But while Prosise and Carlisle are locked in as slot guys, and Robinson and Daniels are outside receivers, Denbrock said the versatility Hunter Jr. showed in spring practice should play in his favor come the fall.
Hunter Jr. finally has his shot to play, though, and after spending a year on the sidelines is focused on making an impact in 2014.
"It's definitely been frustrating because coming from high school you're the star and you know you play and you start, and just to have a season off and you have to watch everybody else play is definitely frustrating," Hunter Jr. said. "But it also kind of pumped up the drive in me to get better and better my game so I can come out and contribute when I do get the opportunity to play."