A two-time PNJ Boys Soccer Player of the Year has made his college decision.
Kyle Hunnicutt, a senior on the Booker T. Washington boys soccer team, announced on Instagram on Monday his commitment to Division I University of South Florida in Tampa.
Hunnicutt has had several programs knocking on his door since he became eligible to be talked to by college scouts and coaches. USF came a few months after his recruiting open, Hunnicutt noted.
“Now that I don’t have the stress of colleges on my back and having to worry about which college or team is the right fit for me,” Hunnicutt said, “it’s a huge relief for me.”
USF is coming off a 6-9-1 (3-4-1 conference) and plays in the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2022, but fell short in 2023, losing in the AAC quarterfinals to No. 4 Memphis.
But it’s not just the college experience that stood out to Hunnicutt. Since 1996, the Bulls have had over 25 players drafted to Major League Soccer teams. In the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, former USF defender Brian Schaefer was drafted with the 27th pick to FC Cincinnati.
The MLS also has preseason games and training in Tampa during the spring, and the Bulls just played against Orlando City SC, Hunnicutt noted.
“Obviously I’m nervous and anxious about it, because everyone there wants to become a pro. That’s what they go there for. That’s their reputation,” Hunnicutt said. “It’s amazing to be a part of that. I’m going to be surrounded by people with the same goals as me, which is going to help me in life and soccer. …
“It’s just an amazing place for college soccer. And not just that, but for after college, too. … It’s a great place for me to get viewed by MLS teams. That’s what really stuck out to me.”
Hunnicutt had his official visit last week, and stayed at USF on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, he mentioned. He hung out with his future teammates, visited some classes, and got to see the facilities and watch some practices.
While nothing stood out about conversations with players – he was just in the “meeting phase” with them – there have been “good talks” with USF’s head coach, Bob Butehorn, who just finished his seventh season with the Bulls.
Hunnicutt also had good conversations with USF’s assistant coach.
“I’ve been talking with their assistant, and he’s done nothing but help me and my family. When I went for the visit down there, they helped pay for the hotels – even for my mom,” Hunnicutt said. “That really stood out to me.”
Hunnicutt, through 51 games played in four years at Booker T. has scored 66 goals and recorded 27 assists. Hunnicutt was named the PNJ Player of the Year in 2021 as a standout freshman, and earned the honor again last year as a junior – propelling the Wildcats to the state semifinals.
He has 12 goals and 11 assists in 13 games as a senior for the Wildcats, and is also a captain. And his season isn’t over yet. Booker T., after upsetting Arnold in the District 1-5A championship game in penalty kicks, earned the No. 2 seed in the Region 1-5A tournament.
The Wildcats, riding an eight-game win streak, host No. 7 Clay, near St. Augustine, on Tuesday in the region quarterfinals.
“It’s a really, really big relief because I’m playing with other clubs – or I used to be, and I still kind of do – and I would go there to be seen by colleges,” Hunnicutt said. “Now, I can focus on Washington, which is going to be a big help for the rest of the season.”
Hunnicutt was recently named PNJ Athlete of the Week, where he mentioned he’s played soccer “since (he) remember. … Out of the womb, probably.” He told the PNJ that his dad gave him a little soccer ball to play with when he came home from the hospital, and his focus has always been on soccer.
And he made sure to recognize the sacrifices that his parents made to get him to this point.
“All that work that me – and my family – have put in has paid off. My mom and I travel four, five, six hours every weekend to play soccer somewhere, and then we fly other places,” Hunnicutt said. “Now, that’s over and I have something to show for it.
“That’s the biggest thing and inspiration, the sacrifices my mom and dad have made. My mom is a single mom, and every single weekend she’s traveling, driving, spending a lot of money to get me to where I’ve been. She’s been doing that since I can remember. Everything that I am today is because of her, and I give her all the credit for it.”
Ben Grieco is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached on X (@BenGriecoSports) and via email at [email protected].