Travis Hunter wants to be the best. The best at football. The best at business. The best at whatever he does at all times.
On his journey to becoming the best, the highly touted Jackson State University freshman cornerback is learning from the best to ever play the position in Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Deion Sanders, who is in his third year as head coach of the Tigers as he continues to change the college football landscape by providing more opportunities in and around HBCUs.
Off the field, Hunter has an equally impressive teacher in Michael Strahan. The football Hall of Famer is a two-time Emmy-winning TV personality who hosts Good Morning America and The $100,000 Pyramid, is an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday, and started multidimensional talent management, music, branding and production company SMAC Entertainment with long-time business partner Constance Schwartz-Morini in 2010.
Also under Strahan’s empire is Michael Strahan, a clothing and lifestyle brand founded in 2015, which recently introduced Michael Strahan Daily Defense, a new skin and shave line.
Hunter is learning firsthand from Strahan by joining the brand as its first ambassador, a partnership made possible by the NCAA’s NIL policy adopted in 2021 permitting collegiate athletes to monetize their name, image and likeness.
The nation’s top recruit, who surprisingly snubbed Sanders’ alma mater Florida State University to play for Coach Prime at Jackson State, will be the face of several Michael Strahan brand efforts, including its continued expansion of tailored and sportswear clothing lines, and will appear in brand marketing efforts across print, digital and social media.
“It means a lot,” Hunter says. “It really inspires me to do more of the things he’s doing for his brand and his community. … He’s really at the top of what he does. He’s one of the top people you want to work with. He can teach you a lot about what he does.”
The deal is the second for Hunter, the top recruit in the Class of 2022, who has been touted as “a generational type of talent” by recruiting platform 247Sports. The defensive back/wide receiver, who had two pass breakups in his college football debut in JSU’s 59-3 drubbing of Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic on Sept. 4, signed a two-year NIL partnership with Greenwood in July to promote its “Choose Black” campaign.
“Travis Hunter is a game-changer on and off the football field,” Strahan said via email. “This young man had the opportunity to select any school in the country but chose Jackson State University, an HBCU. His decision demonstrates his character, his vision and his confidence. He is also a great teammate.
“These qualities resonate with me and my brand. I admire this young man and look forward to watching his continued growth.”
While he’s dealing with an injury that kept him out of the Tigers’ 16-3 win against Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic this past weekend, Hunter remains unbothered by the noise and expectations surrounding his early career.
The pressure is certainly there for the 19-year-old, who is the first five-star high school prospect to sign with a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football program since ESPN began college football rankings in 2006 and the highest-ranked recruit to commit to an HBCU.
With the dreams of making it to the NFL, the preseason third-team All-American is ready to lead by example on and off the field, something Sanders and Strahan excelled at on the gridiron and continue to set the standard for in their post-playing careers.
“I’m very good with the leadership/role model role,” Hunter says. “I like that role. I like to show people that I’m going to be on a straight line, I’m not going to mess up or do anything out of the ordinary to jeopardize anything.
“I’m happy to be the leader and to show people if I can do it, you can do it. It’s not that hard. You just have to work towards it. If you’re working towards something you really love, it’s not hard at all.”