“I knew something had happened,” said Drake, Georgia’s wide receivers coach from 1992-’96.
What had happened was the shooting death of former Georgia wide receiver Brice Hunter.
“It was just really a tough thing to hear, especially on a Sunday morning,” Drake said.
Hunter, 29, was shot three times during an early Sunday morning argument with a neighbor.
“He was as fine a young man as you’d ever want to coach,” said former Georgia head coach Ray Goff. “You never had a lick of trouble with him.”
The argument reportedly started after Hunter went to the basement apartment in the three-flat building in which he lived to talk to a man who had complained about loud music in Hunter’s apartment. An altercation ensued and Hunter was shot in the chest, stomach and forearm. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Thomas Williams, 38, was charged with failing to register a weapon after the incident.
“It’s just so senseless,” Goff said. “We lose too many good people in our country to senseless acts by people. It just irritates you. It makes you nauseated to hear we lost another young man to something so pointless.”
Hunter’s death came just hours after he and wife Brandi Decker, a former women’s basketball player at Georgia, had a party to celebrate the birthday of one of their three children, Goff said. The Hunters three children were ages 5, 3 and 1, Goff said.
Damon Evans, Georgia’s senior associate athletic director who will replace athletic director Vince Dooley in July, was a teammate of Hunter in 1992.
“I’m very surprised and saddened by it,” Evans said. “You never think of people who are around our age passing away. It’s disheartening. It’s kind of tough to see that happening. My heart goes out to his family.
“He was an exceptional talent but more than that he was a good friend a good teammate and someone you could rely on. It’s just devastating what has happened.”
Hunter is the third player from the early ‘90s Bulldogs to meet an early death. Wide receiver Sean Hummings (1988-90) died of a heart attack in 1991, and fullback Alphonso Ellis (1987-90) died after a lengthy illness in 2003.
“It’s devastating just to think about it,” Evans said. “To die so young is terrible and to die in the manner in which (Hunter) did is just unbelievable.”
Georgia recruited Hunter out of Valdosta High School, where he was an all-state honorable mention player under Nick Hyder. The Wildcats were 24-1-1 in Hunter’s two years as a starter.
“He was tremendously gifted,” said Drake, who is now the Bears’ wide receivers coach, “had a great smile, was tremendously quiet. He never gave me one bit of trouble, not one problem. He always listened, you could tell him to do something and he’d do it. I’ve got just so many pleasant memories of him as a person and an athlete.”
Hunter, a two-time All-SEC selection, caught 192 passes for 2,373 yards from 1992-’96. He was the Bulldogs’ career leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns (19) until 2002, when Terrence Edwards eclipsed all three of those marks. He went on to play three years in the NFL, two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one with the Miami Dolphins.
“He had the best hands of any wide receiver that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” Drake remembered.
Goff and Evans remembered the same thing about Hunter’s skills.
“He had as good a hands as anybody you’ll ever see in college football,” Goff said. “He just had a great work ethic. It was very important for him to be successful.”
He was working as a trainer at a Chicago health club, his mother-in-law told the Tribune. Drake and Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who was with the Buccaneers when Hunter played in Tampa Bay, had recently discussed inviting Hunter to the Bears’ practices “just to say hello because he’s a very likable young man,” Drake said.
“I was in the process of doing that just three or four days ago,” he said. “I really had not had time to get together with him.”