SAN LUIS OBISPO — A recruiting visit to Abilene Christian in Texas seemed promising. So did repeated calls from Maryland, Temple, Michigan State and Syracuse University.
Hunter Raquet felt like he was on cloud nine with all the interest in his football talents. But when the sky cleared last spring, the Monterey Peninsula College quarterback was left abandoned.
“Coaches were hitting me up on Monday, telling me how much they liked me,” Raquet said of the recruiting calls before the signing period. “Toward the end of the week, I didn’t hear from them again. I was starting to feel cursed.”
Raquet’s numbers in two seasons at MPC were too good to ignore. While calls continued to filter in, one, in particular, stuck with him as different and sincere.
“I just got a different vibe when Cal Poly called me,” Raquet coach. “Coach (Erik) Meyer (the quarterback coach) and I hit it off. Beyond football, the atmosphere just felt right.”
The cruse was lifted. As humbling as being dangled like a yo-yo felt last spring, the San Benito graduate is in a comfort zone in San Luis Obispo, blessed with a fresh start.
“With a new staff, no one has leverage over anyone else,” Raquet said. “It’s a new system. It just felt like the best fit. It’s a system similar to what we ran at MPC.”
Raquet excelled in two years for the Lobos, throwing for nearly 5,000 yards and 52 touchdowns, helping the program to a pair of Coast Conference titles and a Living Breath Foundation Bowl win.
Sandwiched in-between those two seasons for Raquet was a stop at Fresno State, where he was redshirted before giving up his scholarship and returning to MPC.
“I started to wonder if that was part of the program,” Raquet said. “Maybe some coaches were leery of me because I didn’t stay. But I found out that Fresno State gave me a great recommendation.”
As it turned out, it was just bad luck in some situations for Raquet, who learned the final scholarship at Maryland came down to him and Tua Tagovailoa’s little brother.
“Well, you know who was going to get that scholarship,” Raquet laughed. “Up until that point, I thought Maryland was going to be the one. I think the name beat me there.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, most of Raquet’s recruiting visits were virtual. Yet, conversations with Temple and Syracuse were promising before his phone went silent.
“Some of these schools were hitting me up two or three times during the week,” Raquet said. “All of a sudden, I wouldn’t hear from them again.”
The one visit Raquet did take was to Abilene Christian, where he toured the campus, spent time with the coaches and spoke with players.
“The visit went well,” Raquet said. “I liked the coaches. But something didn’t feel right. When I got back to California, I didn’t hear from them. An assistant coach finally said they went with another player.”
Raquet’s rollercoaster recruiting tour took another turn when Northern Colorado expressed interest in the 6-foot-4, 218-pound signal-caller.
The problem was the coach recruiting him was then assistant Ronnie Palmer, who left and taken the job at MPC, replacing Mike Rasmussen.
“I liked his length and athleticism,” Palmer said. “He could make all the passes you need. He has games under his belt. He’s a winner. Rass (Rassmussen) did a tremendous job in helping him develop.”
A new staff at Northern Colorado, though, went in another direction.
“No one knew me except coach Palmer,” Raquet said. “And he was no longer there. So that fizzled.”
While Raquet didn’t want to speak poorly on any program, two Mountain West schools decided to text him at midnight to say they were no longer interested.
“All I wanted was someone to call and be straight with me,” Raquet said. “I stopped letting it faze me and just kept moving on. I knew I would land somewhere.”
When Cal Poly cleaned house with its coaching staff, Rasmussen sent Meyers film of the 21-year-old Raquet. Within 48 hours, he was down there for a visit, leaving with a sense that this was the right fit.
With the Big West Conference postponing its fall sports to this spring, Raquet has had an off-season to learn the system — at least virtually.
“The good thing about a staff change is it’s a fresh start,” said Palmer, who played at the University of Arizona. “I spoke with one of the assistants. The connection helped Hunter get an opportunity.”
Of course, this hasn’t been a normal off-season. There was no spring practice. The fall was reduced to Zoom meetings.
With the team’s first game slated for Feb. 27 against Southern Utah, the hope is that the Mustangs will be in pads by the end of this month. There are five quarterbacks on the roster.
Only eight teams in the conference have opted in for the spring season.
“There is no depth chart,” Raquet said. “You can’t select a starter through walkthroughs. I believe all of us could see some time. Mentally I’ve got the system down. If feels second nature.”
Raquet ran a similar system flawlessly in 2019 for the MPC, throwing for over 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns in 10 games. He tossed just four picks in 320 attempts.
“Coach Meyer doesn’t want to see robotics,” Raquet said. “It takes a lot of muscle memory through Zoom. At the end of the day, the ball is in our hand and we get to make the final decision.”
Despite coming off a 3-8 2019 campaign, Raquet believes Cal Poly isn’t that far away from contending. Four of its games in 2019 were decided by a touchdown or less.
“I’ve watched a lot of film,” Raquet said. “A lot of games came down to two or three plays. With this coaching staff and guys we have, I’m anxious to just get going. It seems like it’s been forever.”
Contributed by local news sources