Atlanta’s First in the AFL-NFL
“Introducing the fourth inductee in a series of five into the Atlanta Hall Of Fame.”
Few folks in Atlanta are aware of a great football player who holds a spot in the New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame. There are lots of honors to enumerate when writing about Jimmie Lee “Earthquake” Hunt.
Born in Atlanta in 1938, Hunt was an outstanding player for the Booker T. Washington High School Wolverines graduating in 1956. While in high school, Hunt began as a linebacker.
However, with his team behind by three touchdowns at halftime his coach moved him to fullback. That night “Earthquake” ran for seven touchdowns in the second half to earn a win for the Wolverines.
Three seasons later he had bowled his way to a total of 50 TDs. Though highly recruited by a number of colleges he decided to stay closer to home and play for Prairie View A&M.
There he was moved to defensive tackle. Blessed with speed, it earned him a place on the track team where he ran the 220 – yard dash.
Following his college career Hunt was drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals in 1960.
After playing 10 games, a foot injury moved him to the Cards’ taxi squad. At that point, the Boston Patriots of the new American Football League contacted him. Arriving in Boston shortly before game time the coach asked when he would be ready to play.
Hunt replied, “as soon as the Star Spangled Banner concludes”. At 5 feet - 11 inches and 255 pounds he earned a starting role on the Patriots defensive line. The ground was said to rumble when he chased quarterbacks.
His teammates gave him the nickname “Earthquake” which stuck through his professional career. The big lineman is just one of 20 men to play all ten seasons of the AFL’s existence before merging with the NFL. He holds the AFL record for the most fumble recoveries. “Earthquake” earned four-time AFL All-Star honors and made four trips to their Pro Bowl.
When the AFL merged with the NFL, Boston became the New England Patriots. Hunt played two more years before concluding his 12-year pro career. He appeared in 146 games and compiled 29 quarterback sacks of 19 different QBs.
He was known as the team’s fastest lineman. He once ran back an interception for a 78-yard touchdown.
Hunt’s jersey playing number was 79 and it is one of seven numbers since retired by the Patriots. The team’s outstanding defensive lineman award given each year is named the Jim Lee Hunt trophy. As the New England Patriots began their Hall of Fame, “Earthquake” was selected in the third class to be inducted. He resides among 18 others so honored thus far.
The former Booker T. Washington football star retired in 1971 after a stellar career chasing down many great backfield stars of the pro ranks. He then became an assistant coach for Boston University. Tragically, he suffered a heart attack in November 1975, and died at the age of 37.
A park in Boston is named for him. He is buried here in Atlanta.
Not well remembered from the days of school segregation here in Atlanta, Jim Lee “Earthquake” Hunt made his mark in professional football.
Without a doubt he must go down as one of the best to ever play the game from our town. Certainly as a member of the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, he deserves a front row place in an Atlanta Athletics Hall of Fame. His performance forms a huge presence in the tradition of Atlanta sports.
We hope the Atlanta public and every sports fan will help with their donation of funds. All donations will be tax exempt. Checks made out and addressed to Atlanta Athletics HOF can be sent to P.O. Box 637 in Atlanta.
Please help us make this a first class endeavor as we honor the athletes who have achieved so much over more than a century of competition.