Hurst to walk on at USM

Published 12:01 am Thursday, August 2, 2012

HATTIESBURG — The next time Cliff Hurst’s foot meets the leather of a football, it will be as a member of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.

And with each punt, Hurst will be looking to impress the coaches and accomplish a dream that he has had his whole life.

“(Starting as a freshman) would be amazing,” Hurst said. “It’s something no words can describe. It would be a dream come true. Everybody dreams of playing at a Division 1 school, and to play as a true freshman in Lincoln, Neb., at 2:30 p.m. on national TV with everybody in the world that knows me watching me punt would be amazing. It would be nerve wracking, but awesome.”

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Hurst reported to Southern Miss’ fall camp Wednesday and will start practice this week.

“I’m very excited to be able to get everybody together,” he said. “I look forward to showing the coaches what I’ve got. I’ve been working hard towards it my whole life. I just want to make a statement that I can do this, and get some confidence under my belt.”

Hurst was a standout punter for Centreville last season, and he said he worked this summer to improve for the college level.

“Most definitely (I’ve improved),” Hurst said. “I’m more consistent, and my hang time has gotten better.”

Hurst said his focus has been on making his punts stay in the air longer, which is crucial to being a successful collegiate punter.

“It’s not about distance anymore,” he said. “As long as you have a good 45 yard punt with a 4.6 or 4.7 (second) hang time you are fine.”

Hurst also left Centreville with two state championship rings on his fingers for baseball, and he said despite spending this summer away from the diamond, he plans on joining the Golden Eagle baseball team after football season.

“They told me that after football season I better be at the baseball field,” Hurst said.

Hurst will team-up on the diamond with former Trinity Episcopal standout Jake Winston, and the two will be roommates when school starts later this month.

“I am looking forward to staying with Jake,” Hurst said. “I talk to him, and I can’t wait to get in there with him. We are good buddies, and I look forward to hanging out with him and making many memories.”

Hurst said he has spent his summer on football fields in Centreville and Hattiesburg practicing as well as in the classroom completing his first, and only, collegiate English course.

“I got English knocked out,” he said. “I never have to take that again.”

Hurst said he has become more comfortable with college life, and he hopes to make Hattiesburg his new home.

“I want to make it my new home, like it was at Centreville,” he said.

Hurst is currently a walk-on, but he said the coaches have told him that they plan to place him on scholarship in January.