Just an hour before Ansonia and Naugatuck kicked off the 113th edition of their Thanksgiving Rivalry, Jack Hunt, one of town’s most beloved figures died just a few miles from Jarvis Stadium.
Hunt, an imposing figure, starred at Ansonia as two-way lineman, played at Wichita State under Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson, then returned to coach in his hometown, first as an assistant then as a seven-time state championship coach.
While Hunt’s health had been failing in recent months as he battled through cancer, his death came as a shock to most of us out covering games. It created a pall over Jarvis Stadium as the news spread across the thousands in attendance.
You’ll likely be hearing a lot of great stories about Hunt over the next few days as Ansonia mourns his passing.
Personally, I only covered Jack’s teams for two years. But I’m thankful for getting to know the big man, who — quite frankly — intimidated the hell out of me when I first started at Connecticut Post.
As for stories, well, my only Jack Hunt story came in 2005, his last year as coach. The Chargers were talented, but young and struggling. They were 2-2 heading into a game at Seymour.
To preview the game, I called the coach — to whom I’d barely got to know in my one year — and stuttered and stumbled through an anxious interview. Knowing Ansonia’s proud tradition and knowing losing is never accepted, especially by Hunt, I somehow uttered these words:
“Coach, if you don’t win this game, would the season be over?”
Big Jack was gracious. He gave me a few quotes that worked for my story. They were subtle, but in essence was a firm, “No.”
I thought nothing of it until Ansonia, behind an an awesome performance by a sophomore tailback named Alex Thomas, crushed QB Ryan Osiecki and Seymour 48-13.
Afterwards, he gathered his team together and announced the following:
“Hey! Hey! SOME REPORTER called me the other night and had the GUTS to ask if the season was OVER? CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT??? IS THIS SEASON OVER???”
As I stood nearby, flummoxed and thoroughly put in my place, the Chargers went nuts.
Ansonia went on to win four straight games until losing to eventual Class SS champion Woodland. The Chargers didn’t make the playoffs at 7-3 and Hunt officially retired at the end of the year. He said wanted to hand the keys to a clearly talented group over to one of his young, upcoming assistants, Tom Brockett.
Brockett won the state championship and the No. 1 ranking the following season.
I’d always see Hunt at Ansonia games, holding court by his usual spot in the north end zone at Jarvis with a few of his buddies. I’d always find time strike up a conversation (typically kicking things off by asking how his golf game was going) and got to know the man better just through chit chat. The two of us had a few laughs, talking Valley football and all of its characters.
As imposing and as tough as the man was to generations of Ansoniaians, Coach Hunt was also an affable, gentle giant. He commanded your attention, but you would find it hard to pull yourself away as Hunt spun yarn after yarn of amazing stories.
I’m grateful for having covered him and his teams. My deepest condolences go out to the Hunt family and Ansonia community. We’ve lost a legend.
Below is a collection of all the Tweets and tributes from fans, former players and us reporters on Thanksgiving Day.
To all you Ansonia guys on here (including you, Carl and Eddie), please share with us your thoughts and memories of the late, great Jack Hunt.