Growing up a Colts fan, I loved punter Hunter Smith. I even listened to his old band “Connersvine” throughout college. And now—even though he’s retired—I love him even more, especially now that I know him. The dude is hilarious.
Last Thursday and Friday, I met with him and All Pro Dad’s Darrin Gray to work on a new project in conjunction with Sports Spectrum called “The Jersey Effect.” (We’ll give you more details later.)
“Ya know,” Hunter said Thursday morning as we sat in his basement. “If my voice is going to be the main one in this book, it needs to be humorous. I’m a funny guy.”
Little did I know…
Within 10 minutes of our meeting, I got my first glimpse of Hunter’s humor—when an intruder sent from Satan himself came to stunt our productivity. A wasp. Hunter’s eyes locked onto the critter like a heat-seeking missile. Then he splattered the thing with a thunderous CLAP, sending a message to never invade his domain again. (I think I’ve only seen that look in a man’s eyes one other time in my life. And it was when he and his teammates were playing the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship.)
The wasps, however, weren’t intimidated. Merely minutes later, there was another one hovering over our heads, Hunter gradually growing more and more upset as if a burglar was trying to break into his house. Then another came. And another. And before I knew it, I was up out of my seat with a wasp on my back as the Colts ex-punter danced around me swatting at my rear.
“I hate these sons of bugs!” he grunted in his Texas drawl.
At one point, a wasp landed on a picture frame that sat on the mantel above his fireplace. Hunter withdrew his trusty sword—which was a rolled up piece of paper—took a mighty Albert Pujols-esque swing at the wasp, completely whiffed and accidentally made solid contact with his wife’s decorative vase to the left. The vase came tumbling down and seemingly fell in slow motion as we braced ourselves for the splintering shatter of glass meeting brick.
I remember thinking, “This guy can punt a football 70 yards, but he can’t squash a resting bug.” We’ll blame it on adrenaline.
Yet somehow—and I have no idea how—the vase didn’t break. My only explanation is that Hunter is such a good Christian guy that God extends grace to him in the everyday annoyances of life…like getting a flat tire, dropping a cell phone or swatting a glass vase with a paper epée.
The wasps continued to periodically show up one by one throughout the day, and by the time I left there was a minefield of carcasses scattered across his basement floor.
The next morning, I got to his house a little early while he was at a Bible study. “Did Hunter tell you about the wasps?” I asked his wife, Jen.
“The what?” she asked.
“Oh…shoot, he didn’t tell you? Hmmmmmm…I’m gonna go downstairs. Have a nice day Mrs. Smith!”
The dreaded wasp situation wasn’t the only funny thing that happened. This column, in fact, can’t contain all of Hunter’s humor over a 17-hour span without a table of contents. Anyway, after a good five hours of discussion on Thursday, we left to go get lunch. “I’ve got a good place for us,” Hunter said.
Next thing I knew we were trekking down a winding gravel road in his pickup truck through the Zionsville woods. I looked out the window. It was a dreary and rainy autumn afternoon in Indiana…almost creepy as we journeyed down a rocky road that I promise can’t be found on Google Maps.
“Oh my gosh,” I thought to myself. “The Colts ex-punter is going to take me to a dilapidated barn in the middle of a Hoosier cornfield, and he’s going to kill me.”
“So where did you grow up in Indy?” Hunter asked.
I didn’t hear anything. I was picturing him and Darrin burying my body beneath the soybean crops, then satisfyingly putting their hands on their hips and grinning.
“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Um, I grew up in Clayton.” (Clayton is a classic Indiana town on the west side of Indianapolis composed of two things: corn and hillbillies.)
“Clayton!” he exclaimed. “I bought a donkey in Clayton once.”
I tried to comprehend his statement. But I struggled. “Well, he did grow up on a 1,000-acre ranch in Texas,” I thought to myself. “I guess a donkey makes sense…maybe?”
I shot him a confused look.
“You see,” he said. “I wanted to do something different for my son’s birthday party. Everyone gets jungle gyms and cliché stuff like that. So I decided to go on Craigslist and find a donkey for them to ride. I found one, too. It was in Clayton. Paid 100 bucks for it. Right after the party, I put it back on Craigslist.”
That’s when I decided I had to write about the guy. Anyone that buys a donkey for 100 bucks is column-worthy.
After eating at a hole-in-the-wall apple orchard-type restaurant with the best mashed potatoes and gravy in the Indianapolis area, we went back to Hunter’s house, and he introduced us to one of his new band’s (The Hunter Smith Band) songs. The title: 100 Dollar Donkey.
Hunter, of course, was goofy as can be. But he was more than a screwball. He had a heart for God. (Prepare yourself for the first serious paragraph I’ve ever written in my column.) Sure, there were some funny moments on Thursday and Friday. But there were also hours upon hours of encouraging God-centered conversation. I left his house feeling wiser in the Lord and more mature in my faith. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to do things the right way. I wanted that joy, that passion, that hunger, that Christ-like leadership.
Overall, he taught me what it means to have genuine faith.
And maybe next time I can teach him how to kill a wasp.
Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. His column tackles sports and faith from another angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. Follow him on Twitter-@steve_copeland or email him at email@example.com. Also follow @HunterSmithBand and @AllProDadLeader.