|Published: 3:01 PM, 10/02/2012
||Last updated: 3:15 PM, 10/02/2012
Author: Seth Butler
Source: The Newport Plain Talk
After taking his college football career step-by-step, Newport-native Hunter Dockery took one of the biggest steps on Saturday night for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Dockery, a 2009 graduate of Cocke County High School, made his first career start at the collegiate level when the Mocs dispatched No. 11 ranked The Citadel 28-10. Dockery was the starting left tackle for UTC in their upset win in Charleston.
The move to the starting lineup for the walk-on redshirt junior offensive lineman comes almost four full years after his senior season at Cocke County High School went south - finishing in a disastrous 0-10 mark.
The now 6-foot-5, 305-pound redshirt junior has worked for four years to get to this point in his career. In 2009, he walked on in Chattanooga, where his father Tim played collegiate ball in the early 1980s.
Every year has been a struggle as he has advanced from redshirt status, scout squad and to the starting lineup this past weekend, all while juggling the heavy academics of an engineering major and the concerns of being an athlete with diabetes.
It was a journey that saw Dockery initially added to the scout team, then to the travel team - where he received mop-up duty in a game at eventual national champion Auburn in 2010.
In 2011, Dockery began to receive more reps in practice and was instrumental in special teams. This fall he began to receive some first team reps in practice and even had a glimpse of a starting opportunity earlier in the season, only not to get the nod just days before the Mocs game at Jacksonville State.
"You can get discouraged a lot as a walk-on, but you've got to keep your head up," Dockery said.
"You have to realize that your time will come with some luck and some hard work."
It's the hard work that Dockery has put in during numerous practice sessions on UTC's Scrappy Field.
That hard work also came by dedicating himself to a strenuous off-season conditioning program while home for the summer in Newport, where he also worked with current Cocke County High School players.
"A walk-on has to work twice as hard as everyone else," Dockery said. "They give everyone that is on scholarships the chance first.
"You have limited chances to prove yourself, so you have to take advantage of every chance you get," Dockery said.
Dockery was added to the Mocs starting lineup after an injury to starter Brandon Morgan, was part of an offensive line that paved the way for a punishing ground game in Saturday's victory. UTC compiled a second-high 254 yards via their ground game in knocking off the Bulldogs.
While quarterbacks Jacob Huesman and Terrell Robinson were each sacked twice, Dockery did not surrender a sack from his left tackle position.
The victory was a vital one for the Mocs, who evened their record to 1-1 in the Southern Conference, to keep pace in the league race. The Citadel had beaten top-10 ranked SoCon foes Appalachian State and Georgia Southern earlier in September.
"I told the team in the locker room (that I've) never been prouder of a football team or a coaching staff as I was tonight," Mocs fourth-year coach Russ Huesman told the team after the game in a video produced by the UTC Sports Information Department.
The passion exhibited by Huesman after the game is something that's reflected from top-to-bottom in his program.
"Everyone on the team cares so much about the game and works hard - coaches and players," Dockery said. "I think I've grown a lot as a football player since high school because of that."
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