Always focusing on the next kick, UTSA place-kicker Hunter Duplessis, ’20 understands the importance of teamwork both on the field as well as in business.
“Investing in the future of football at first was difficult for me,” said Duplessis, who earned bachelor’s degrees in information systems and cyber security in the College of Business. “But, I made the right decision. I would have regretted not taking an opportunity with the UTSA football team.”
An Army brat, Duplessis hadn’t even played football until his senior year at Cole High School in San Antonio. He had his eye on playing college soccer, but a high school coach encouraged him to help his team by giving kicking a try.
From that moment his dreams soon shifted, and he looked for opportunities to play college football. After attending a special teams camp and tryout at UTSA, he chose to walk on to the football team and begin his academic career at UTSA.
“In college there is a lot of talent,” said Duplessis. “I had to really push aside the selfishness and buy into the team culture.”
He redshirted his freshman year and began his career kicking off for the scout team. From there he moved to kicking off for the team, until he earned his starting job as a place-kicker along with a football scholarship his redshirt junior year. In 2019 he was 9 of 11 for field goals and a perfect 25 for 25 in extra points.
“The previous place-kicker Jared Sackett brought me along and worked with me,” said Duplessis. “He is a talented young man. I was always competing with him, and we learned from each other.”
As the coronavirus uprooted plans for most of the world, Duplessis and his fellow student athletes were unsure how this season would play out.
“COVID made me appreciate football that much more,” said Duplessis, who trained all summer in preparation. “What if my senior year was stripped away from me because of the pandemic? It reignited the passion I felt when I first started kicking. It made me appreciate the people around me, the sport that I play and my dedication to the craft.”
Luckily Conference USA elected to continue football this fall. And, with a few schedule adjustments, Duplessis has been able to assume a leadership position on the football team. During the team’s home opener against Texas State, he kicked the game-winning field goal in double overtime to secure a Roadrunner victory. That week he was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
Beginning most days at 5 a.m., he has a grueling schedule filled with team meetings, practice sessions, weight room work and coursework. And although he completed his degree this spring he continues to take classes full-time this fall.
“I love this school,” he said. “I love the courses that I’ve taken and my professors.”
Although he didn’t begin as a business major, he soon realized his passion for information technology and helping others. And, to his surprise, he discovered he was at the No. 1 school in the nation for cyber security.
Grateful for all of his professors, he particularly enjoyed coursework in database management, network security and information policy and assurance.
“I found that my interests lie more in the management of technology, than things that are highly technical such as programming. It is a good match for my personality.”
But, one of the professors that made the greatest impact on him taught one of his introductory marketing courses—Richard Utecht, associate professor of marketing.
“He had a profound impact on my life, and how I viewed my professors,” said Duplessis. “He taught me that you can’t learn everything, but you can learn anything. I met with him regularly, and he was always supportive. We need more professors like this.”
Last summer he completed an information technology internship with SWBC that cemented his interest in the field. Working with the IT Systems team, he interacted with a variety of technology teams at the company and was able to perform a variety of tasks such as setting up virtual machines, updating certificates and working with their Microsoft Exchange server.
“This was the first time I’ve worked in my life in terms of having a paying job,” he said. “Those guys took me in and taught me so much. I was trying to be a sponge and absorb anything and everything that I could while I was there.
“I always tell people you do not have to be the most technically-sound person to have a lasting impact with your coworkers,” he said. “It is important to be a team player when it comes to helping other people out. And do not underestimate the value of networking and communication.”
Duplessis credits playing college football for teaching him valuable life lessons that will benefit him when he begins his professional career. “If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right,” he said. “Football has also taught me to use failure as a learning experience. Student-athletes know how to balance a heavy workload, buy into a culture and step up to perform.”
While Duplessis isn’t trying to look beyond the next football game, he does have a variety of options waiting for him. If athletes are given another year of eligibility, he would like to return and begin work on his master’s degree. He also has job opportunities available at SWBC as well as with a technology company on the East Coast. Given his family’s commitment to service, he is also considering a career in the Air Force. And, not ruling out a professional career in football, he would like the opportunity to compete for professional scouts.
“My UTSA degree is very valuable to me,” he said. “And, it is not because of football. It is because of both of the degrees that I earned, and the weight that they hold in society. I’m dedicated and forever grateful to the College of Business. I’m prepared for almost anything. And, the way that my coursework integrated my degree into a business setting has helped set me up for whatever the future holds.”