One of the most compelling scenes of Ozark’s first week of practices centered around nose guard Hunter Tennison.
With the 6-foot-5, 215-pounder standing head and shoulders above nearly all his teammates, the Tigers’ coaches opted to double-team Tennison during one linemen drill. Opposite him were two of the team’s best offensive linemen in Tim Albright and Logan Brewer.
Properly motivated, Tennison muscled his way in between Albright and Brewer with the kind of fierce tenacity Ozark coaches dearly hope to see from him this season.
“When they told me I had to go against those two, I knew I had to stick with what the coaches have taught me and go harder than I ever have,” Tennison said. “The coaches are always telling me I need to be more of a leader to the guys and make them work as hard as they can by getting the best capability out of them.”
Of course, the harder Tennison works, the more he pulls at the exceptional potential he possesses as a big body with athletic flexibility.
Tennison, a junior, tapped into his potential in baseball this spring and summer. He struck out 15 in 11 innings and compiled a 2.55 ERA for the Tigers in the spring. He followed up by throwing a one-hit shutout for Team Missouri at the Junior Sunbelt Classic in the summer.
“I saw a different side of me in baseball this year,” Tennison said. “I saw a lot more progress. This was probably my favorite year in baseball. It was a blast.”
In contrast, he endured an injury-plagued wrestling season last winter. He was forced off the mat due to an involging fracture in his hip.
“The muscle on the hip got torn off,” he said. “But by baseball season, it was all 100 percent healed.”
Tennison is certainly a unique combination as a lineman on the gridiron and a pitcher on the ball diamond.
“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘You’re really a pitcher?’ being the size I am,” Tennison said. “I actually think my height is an advantage. Striding out there like I can puts me closer to the plate.”
The three-sport standout could be a two-way starter for Ozark. On offense, he lines up at left guard. If he doesn’t start offensively, he figures to see his share of playing time on that side of the ball.
“(Coaches) haven’t told me that officially, but I think that’s what they’re leaning toward,” Tennison said of playing on both offense and defense. “They’re trying to play more guys on offense to get some guys rest in between plays by rotating guys.
“Everything the coaches have been teaching us has been going well,” he added. “I look forward to using that against Neosho (in Ozark’s season opener Aug. 30).”