Hunter Escorcia was playing his first game at a new position. He flipped to defense before his junior year at the behest of Jav Guidry, the Vista Murrieta High defensive backs coach.
“He was telling me, I need to come over to play DB because we’re gonna need me this year. In summer ball I transitioned,” Escorcia said of moving from receiver to safety. “It was a tough transition, but by the time Game 1 came I was having a blast. I definitely didn’t regret it.”
He picked off two passes and had five tackles in that 2018 season-opening victory over Los Alamitos. It should have been a celebratory night, but Escorcia also suffered an injury, tearing the labrum in his right shoulder. He missed the next three games, in which Vista Murrieta allowed a combined 78 points. The Broncos allowed just 41 points while winning their final six games of the regular season with Escorcia hovering over the top of the defense as a free safety.
Escorcia finished the season with 39 tackles and five interceptions in eight games even though he was playing with a shoulder brace that restrained his movements and admits he was careful about hitting anyone with his injured right shoulder. He believes he’s primed for a big senior season now that he’s healthy and has a full year of experience as a safety.
“I think my potential is very high right now,” said the 6-foot-2, 175-pound safety, who also is a track star for Vista Murrieta. “I’m a natural football player and I don’t think you see my combination of speed and length very often. As well as learning the position better, I feel like this offseason I got a lot better in understanding the position, so I’m hoping this year is going to be a movie.”
One part of the movie — the segment where he earns a college football scholarship — already has been written. Escorcia committed to Washington State over Utah, San Diego State, Navy and others late in June. He had fielded three offers in the week before his commitment and was likely to see more headed his way, but Escorcia knew he wanted to be a Cougar after taking an unofficial visit.
He had developed a strong relationship with his lead recruiter, Matt Brock, and position coach, Kendrick Shaver. Shaver’s calm but demanding demeanor fit well with what Escorcia loves about the small-town atmosphere of Pullman, Wash.
“Pullman is a very special place,” Escorcia said. “Not much around it, which that’s what stood out to me was the lack of distractions. I’m going to be able to go there, focus on what I need to focus on — focus on being the best I can as a football player and focus on being the best I can as a student and just setting up the rest of my life. I think I will excel there.”
Washington State’s recent success added to the attraction. The Cougars have won at least eight games four years in a row under coach Mike Leach, including last season’s top-10 finish and 11-2 record. Escorcia thinks they’re only going to get better and thinks he can be part of that.
He’s working to make himself a more versatile defender and expects to be used in a variety of ways this season instead of just playing over the top.
To set himself up to have the most success, Escorcia’s focus has been on educating himself about Vista Murrieta’s defensive scheme. He’s learned not only his responsibility on each play but also what the other defensive backs are supposed to do and the assignments of the linebackers in front of him. That knowledge allows him to extend his defensive leverage.
A year after moving to a new position, Escorcia already is studying like an NFL veteran, something he only hopes to continue when he arrives at Washington State.