Onekama’s Hunter to go into the Hall of Fame

Jim Hunter (left) and Jeff Wisniski (right) speaking at the 2016 Onekama football banquet. Hunter will be a part of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association 2018 Hall of Fame class.  (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Jim Hunter (left) and Jeff Wisniski (right) speaking at the 2016 Onekama football banquet. Hunter will be a part of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association 2018 Hall of Fame class. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Jim Hunter roamed the sideline for over a quarter of a century, and now he’ll have a place in the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

12 other coaches will be inducted in the 2018 class with him.

Hunter, who retired after the 2016 season, had over 100 career wins in his time as a head coach, and he coached in some capacity for 40 years.

“I’m very honored. What greater honor can somebody have than to be recognized by their peers? I think the length or duration of years that I coached, 40 years, is unusual. There are not a lot of people to get to that point,” Hunter said.

He took over when Jim Taylor retired in 1989. He was the second coach in program history dating back to its inception in 1964. Prior to Onekama he coached in from Manistique, where he spent 11 years beginning in 1978. Before that he was an assistant at Alma High School for two seasons.

Along with football, Hunter also coached swimming and diving, girls softball, wrestling, track and basketball at various points throughout his 40 years in coaching.

In his first season away from coaching, the cupboards were still full and his foundation helped the team finish 9-2.

“He built the foundation of the program that we are able to enjoy with so much success this season,” current Onekama coach John Neph said. “Our entire coaching staff learned a lot from him over last the couple years of us all working together. We owe him so much for all that he’s done.”

For those that spent time with him over the years, the football was the least of what they’ll reminder him by. Former assistant coach Jeff Wisniski, who worked in the program at various levels for 27 years, remembers his ability to find a way to connect with the players that went through the locker room.

“He’s phenomenal with the X’s and O’s. If you have a question about anything, he can explain it to you so you can understand. He always has an anecdote or story with something that he’s encountered with his vast coaching experience to make you understand,” Wisniski said.

“He’ll relate about how they saw through it, and he got the kids to understand. It was very interesting to coach with him. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but in the end he was usually right. It was an experience.”

Former players remember the program, and now some have a chance to instill these values into the next generation of local athletes. J.J. Randall, who graduated from Bear Lake in 2008 but played for Hunter as a part of the former Onekama/Bear Lake co-op, now coaches the Brethren boys basketball team. With his program he tries to take as much as he learned from Hunter as possible.

“He was that person that kids could go to with anything. If there would be a kid with an injury, he’d be at the kid’s house. You try to be that great person like he was,” Randall said. “I try to create a positive atmosphere, and that comes from Coach Hunter.”

Hunter stressed that to last as long as he did the wins and losses weren’t the primary concern. Instead, being able to last that long required him to think as much about the process, as the results.

“You get so much more back than you put into it. When you look at kids down the road and they remember things that you said, or ways that you encouraged them (it’s great). Coach (Jim) Taylor said it well, ‘Sometimes the coach has to be the first person to believe in a player,’” he said.

“You’d like to think the kids all believe in themselves, but what a thrill it is when you get somebody that doesn’t believe they can do it. You know they can, but they don’t, and you’re set about getting things to the point that they actually do it. When they’ve reached the pinnacle, just the look on their face, the perk in their step, the change in their feeling about themselves, is a powerful thing.”

He is enjoying retirement so far. He’s been able to hunt, fish and spend time with his grandkids more often than before.

“It’s funny. I’m still busy, but I just work at a slower pace,” he said.

The other coaches to go into the Hall of Fame are Don Baxter (Napolean), Michael P. Centala (Monroe Jefferson), Randy Dunny (Saline), Mike Giannone (DeLaSalle Collegiate), Ron Glodich (Marine City), Ronald L. Green (Portland), Kevin W. Langs (Climax-Scotts), Chris Luma (Hudson), Marty Spencer (St. Ignace LaSalle), Paul A. Test (Ann Arbor Pioneer), Dennis Thompson (Onsted), David Thorne (Farmington Hills Harrison) and Thomas Wilcher (Detroit Cass Tech).

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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