UH running back Dae Dae Hunter back for more in expanded role after making history as program’s first No. 0

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Hawaii running back Dae Dae Hunter turns after scoring a touchdown against UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Rarely does a true freshman get bestowed with an honor to make program history, but that’s exactly what University of Hawaii running back Dae Dae Hunter was able to do in 2020.

The 2020 season was the first time players were allowed to wear the jersey number ‘0’ in college football. At UH, the distinction went to Hunter, making him the first-ever Rainbow Warrior to do so.

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“Coming into college, I was just trying to play and touch the field and I was able to get No. 0 and just be the first one to do it, I got a single digit as a freshman,” Hunter said. “I was happy and just smiling about it and it looks good so it just makes me happy, I’m glad to have it. Great blessing.”

UH beat out other schools such as Nevada, Wyoming, UNLV and Eastern Michigan for Hunter’s services back when he was a senior at Chandler High School in Arizona. Although he signed in December 2019 thinking he was going to play for Nick Rolovich, Hunter stuck with his commitment and instead saw immediate playing time for Todd Graham in his first year at the helm in Manoa.

As a backup running back, Hunter scored four total touchdowns for the ‘Bows in 2020 — two rushing and two receiving — after carrying the ball 46 times for 183 yards with 12 receptions for 71 yards. In 2021, he’s expected to be the team’s top full-time running back due to Calvin Turner splitting time between running back and slot receiver.

Due to the NCAA granting student-athletes an extra year of eligibility in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Hunter will still be considered a freshman in 2021. But heading into Year 2, he’s feeling much more comfortable in a Hawaii jersey and isn’t satisfied with just being a promising young player.

“Going through my first year, going through COVID and seeing all that, I didn’t really know so I’m just going with the flow and trying to do everything right so now, this is my first fall camp and seeing the big difference from last year, it’s crazy,” Hunter said. “Last year, the conditioning wasn’t there, everybody was just in a rush but now, everybody’s training is under them, everybody is rolling way faster than what we were last year at this time so it’s looking very good.

“Anytime I’m on the field, that’s just how it always has been, always have confidence against whatever it is, quarterback, running back, receiver, I always got confidence that I’m the best player. Whoever’s in front of me, I’m always the best player. I feel like that’s the confidence you gotta have out here playing football and to be good at it, you always gotta believe you’re the best so that’s what I try to do every day and every rep.”

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