His first two years of playing football, Hyrum Purcell was a running back. He loved it darting through the holes, running over defenders.
But the next few seasons, he always weighed too much to be in the backfield. He had to play as a blocker.
"I was always the shortest guy on the line," he recalls, laughing. "I've always been kind of a smashmouth player."
Luckily for Purcell, the other boys' growth spurts caught up to him, and now the 5-foot-9 senior is back at the position that came so naturally as a child. At 215 pounds, he's still large for a running back, but that's how Hunter likes its backs big.
"He's got a great work ethic," says Scott Henderson, the first-year coach of the Wolverines. "He's one of those kids that grew up with Hunter football and knows the tradition. He runs downhill and is just a hard-nosed guy."
Purcell has shown his propensity for bulldozing through defenses the past two seasons.
The 2011 campaign got out to a slow start as the Wolverines struggled to adapt to a spread offense. In the first three games, the team didn't score any points.
Then Hunter went back to the I-formation, back to Purcell. And his career took off.
After gaining only 108 yards in the first three games with the spread, Purcell averaged 100 per game for the last six games of the season, adding four touchdowns.
"It's just the offense we know," he says. "I tell my blockers all the time, if you get there for the block, I'll see you in the end zone."
This season, Purcell is the top returner in the backfield. But he's not the only offensive outlet the Wolverines have.
Quarterback Shaun Scanlan steps in a starting role, and Purcell says he's been the vocal and emotional leader for Hunter. He makes sure everyone gets to practice and sets an example for the younger players.
Purcell's running partner is Nathan Uhi, more of an outside runner to Purcell's inside pounding. Quick and nimble, he makes a strong complement to the inside running game.
"I don't see him as my backup," Purcell says. "I just see us all as running backs. It doesn't matter who carries the ball."
Of course, much of the offense revolves around Purcell. Against Layton last Friday, he ran 154 yards and for two touchdowns on 13 carries before stepping out with an MCL strain.
This offseason, Purcell has been working with a personal trainer in an effort to boost his play for his senior year and get some scholarship attention. Between team camp and his own workouts last week, Purcell estimates he was training for nearly six hours every day.
"I think coaches are kind of waiting to see what he does this year," Henderson says. "Hyrum is doing what he needs to do. He takes the bull by the horns. He's going to get noticed."
Purcell should sit on the bench this week as he recovers from his knee injury, but he'll be back on the field soon hopefully missing only one game. Until then, he'll make sure his teammates are doing what they need to as well.
"My senior year I just wanted to ball out, but things happen that you can't control," he says. "We've got a good group of guys, though. I know we'll be just fine."
Hunter backfield rediscovering its identity
Senior Hyrum Purcell is the unit's top returner, rushing for 700 yards last season.
Junior Nathan Uhi is Purcell's complement as an outside rusher.
Senior quarterback Shaun Scanlan is the vocal leader of the Wolverines.