AVON PARK — It was a great day at Avon Park High School as Hunter Vanderpool signed a scholarship to play football for the Keiser University Seahawks as a linebacker. Getting a scholarship has been a lifelong dream and goal for Vanderpool. The Seahawks are located in West Palm Beach, are part of the NAIA, are a Divsion II University and are apart of the Sun Conference.

“I am really excited about signing this scholarship, it really means a lot,” said Hunter Vanderpool. “This has been a life long dream for me. I had 15 colleges looking at me. What drew me to Keiser was the facilities, it was a really nice place. I was able to go on a visit and it was nice. All of the coaches treated me right. They really rolled out the red carpet for me. I was able to talk with the head coach in his office, they took me to Top Golf and they showed me the dorms.”

Vanderpool has a lot of support from family, friends and coaches.

“My parents, my Grandparents and Coaches have been my biggest support and I’m really thankful for them,” said Vanderpool. “The biggest struggle for me was exposure. Living in a small town it is hard to get these coaches to come here. I am excited to leave this summer. I’m going to workout all summer at CrossFit863 to get ready.”

Vanderpool was a leader on and off the field for the Red Devils. He made 175 carries for 922 yards and made 7 touchdowns. Avon Park head football coach Lee Albritton says Vanderpool is everything you want in a football player.

“Hunter’s work ethic is almost incomparable,” said Albritton. “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching him as the JV football coach when he came in as a freshman. I’ve watched him grow all four years and the amount of work that he has put in, not only in the weight room, but the extra time, the extra work he has put in and his dedication to being a good teammate is what makes him standout. I can’t put into words how proud I am. This is my first go around with this and he is my first player to get a scholarship so I am very proud. I can’t take all the credit because he has had several other coaches but I am extremely proud of him and the work he has put in.”

Coach Albritton thinks Vanderpool will have no problem succeeding at Keiser.

“Going to college it is going to be a different atmosphere, he is going to be away from family and friend, things he is used to so that will be an adjustment on it’s own,” Albritton said. “He is a student-athlete so he will have to put academics first, really focus in the classroom and I think Keiser sets him up nice with a smart classroom environment that will really help him. Football wise he is going to have to be a sponge and absorb everything. He has to keep working as hard as he has in the weight room, on and off the field. I think he will do just fine.”

The Red Devils will have big shoes to fill next season.

“He is going to be extremely hard to replace,” Albritton added. “He was our offense and our defense, not to take away from the other kids but Hunter was head and shoulders above. He will be a big hole to fill. I wish him the best of luck, I am super proud of him and it is nice to know he is not too far away, we can take a trip down to support him.”

The Vanderpool family is ecstatic for Hunter.

“We are very proud of Hunter,” said Hunter’s father, Nathan Vanderpool. “He worked hard for a very long time. This scholarship means a lot to us. This has been his dream for a long time. He is going to have to keep working hard, take care of his classes and keep going. It is great to have him so close to home, he would freeze his butt off up north. Exposure has been his biggest struggle, Avon Park is a small school so they don’t come this way and it has been tough.”

Vanderpool’s parents are very proud of the work and dedication he has shown.

“This has been a dream of his since he was little, he has wanted to go to college playing a sport whether it being football or baseball,” said Hunter’s mother, Kattie Vanderpool. “We will be at every game with him being so close, being that he has a little brother that will be a senior, we will be able to watch both of them play. Hunter’s biggest struggle has been getting his name out there, the exposure has been a real struggle. Everyone tells us he should be going to a Division I school but Division I doesn’t come this way. We are not ready for him to leave but it is time for him to step out into the world.”