Florida fullback Hunter Joyer overcomes adversity

The Florida Gators rolled to an easy 41-3 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night. In the victory, new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis unveiled his new pro-style offense which heavily featured the I-formation.

Running successfully out of the I-formation is dependent not only on the offensive line and running back play, but also a solid lead blocking fullback.

When fullback Trey Burton, a converted quarterback, left early in the game with a left side injury, true freshman fullback Hunter Joyer was forced to step in and play.

Joyer won’t show up on the highlight reel or the stat sheet, but after his performance Saturday night, head coach Will Muschamp took notice of his young player. Muschamp talked about Joyer’s performance at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

“For a first ball game going out there, he was very productive for us with protections and blocking,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy I’m very excited about having on our football team.”

The 5-foot-10, 242-pounder from Tampa has made a smooth transition from being a primary ball carrier in high school, to a lead blocker at a major SEC football program. As a senior at Tampa Catholic, Joyer rushed for close to 500 yards and six touchdowns, and also added 35 tackles on defense.

Though the transition has been smooth on the field for Joyer, it has been tough of the field since his high school career ended.

Joyer’s mom, Kirsten, suffered a brain aneurysm just days before national signing day. After an eight-hour brain surgery and physical therapy, she has been able to pull through.

For Joyer, he had to not only train for football, but also help his dad take care of his mother and 9-year-old brother, Chandler.

Because of the medical bills, Joyer’s family could no longer afford to keep him at a private school so he transferred to Wesley Chapel HS for the last half of his senior year.

Joyer has been able to overcome the adversity he faced in high school and has worked his way into the offensive rotation for the Gators.

Muschamp said even before Burton was injured, the Florida coaches planned to use him on Saturday.

“We planned on playing him,” Muschamp said. “I think he has really progressed well. He gives you a lot of variety in what he can do. He’s very tough. He’s going to be a really good football player for us. We’re pleased with his progress right now.”

Joyer helped spring running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey for long runs during the game.

Because of his short stature and tremendous strength, Joyer is able to keep great pad leverage when going against taller linebackers and defensive ends.

As a senior, Joyer set the Tampa Catholic bench press record by lifting an astonishing 500 pounds. Joyer didn’t carry the ball or catch any passes against FAU, but as he gets more experience, expect his role to increase in the offense.

Joyer will be more of the big bruising fullback that people are accustomed to seeing, but don’t let his physical play fool you. He has the ability to catch passes in the flat and to be used on short yardage run situations.

For Joyer, his maturity and strong work ethic have allowed him to overcome hurdles in his past. It’s these same traits that will allow Joyer to be successful in the future both on and off the football field.

Gator Country football and recruiting analyst Derek Tyson can be reached at Derek@GatorCountry.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at DerekTysonGC.