Behind the Athlete: Hunter LaFollette


by Aaron Young

Playing soccer since he was seven and garnering the nickname “Big Foot” by his friends for the ability to kick the ball extremely far, sophomore defender Hunter LaFollette has come a long way since his days on the schoolyard pitch.

Now in his second season with the Simpson men’s soccer team, the native of Johnston, Iowa has enjoyed every minute of his collegiate athletics experience.

“I think my favorite part of being on the soccer team is getting to play soccer everyday with some of my closest friends,” LaFollette said. “We are all friends on the soccer team and it’s really fun getting to getting to hang out with them all the time and getting to see them almost every day.”

Knowing that he wanted to play soccer in college since his senior year of high school, LaFollette’s love for the game and success in high school put him on the recruiting radar for many college programs in the Midwest. Some of those schools came straight from the IIAC–Wartburg, Central and Loras, while a few out-of-state schools contacted him, which included Nebraska Wesleyan, Hastings College and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

But none of those schools stood out more than Simpson.

“I really didn’t even consider Simpson until the winter of my senior year,” LaFollette said. “One of my club coaches suggested that I give Rick Isaacson (Simpson Head Soccer Coach) an e-mail to show that I was interested in Simpson to play there. A few days later he responded and we just stayed in contact.”

Once he took an official visit, LaFollette knew that Simpson was the place to be. The beautiful Simpson college campus stood out than the other schools he visited, the fact that he would be playing for a new, young coach and he had connected instantly with the players already on the roster.

Another factor that impacted LaFollette’s commit were the family ties he had with the college.

“My mom and grandma also went to Simpson and graduated from here so they were also big factors on why I decided to commit to Simpson. I would say the main reason though was that Simpson is close to my house and that I would continue to play soccer here,” LaFollette said.

Transitioning into the soccer at the collegiate level was tough for LaFollete as a freshman at first, but now as a sophomore, he has adjusted onto the team and into the level of competition smoothly, both by ability and physically.

“There is a big different in the physical aspect of the game and high school is so much slower when compared to the collegiate level,” LaFollette said. “You just have to play faster and smarter.”

When he’s not playing soccer, however, LaFollette is hanging out with the team, being with his girlfriend and family, gaming on his XBOX 360, or simply sleeping. When he’s not doing any of those, he’s eating.

“I eat way too much and I’m so glad that Kent is finally finished so I don’t have to eat ramen and hot dogs all the time in my room,” LaFollette said.

But when he’s on the field, the free-spirited LaFollette is well prepared for every match. Staying calm and relaxed, he gets suited up the same exact way, every time out, with just two superstitions in mind when he does so.

“I usually put on my socks on the same feet before every game, so I will always put my right sock on before my left sock, and the same with my shoes. I usually wont shave my face before a game either. I just fee manlier with my scruff for some reason,” LaFollette said.

Outside of all the jokes and kidding around, LaFollette and company are looking to get back to the conference tournament grasp that conference title, and have felt good about their season thus far. Last season the team finished third in the IIAC. They were also ranked as high as No. 10 in the Central Region of all Division III schools.

This year, the Storm are 8-5-1 on the season with just as high expectations as in the past.

“We are the first Simpson team to be ranked in the last seven or eight years I believe. We have played really well and I am glad to see that everyone on the team is getting along,” LaFollette said.

LaFollette gives all the credit with the 2012 season’s success to the senior class.

“We all have a certain bond, like a family,” LaFollette said. “I don’t know what I am going to do when the seniors graduate and leave this year. They have all influenced me and made my college experience so much better. We have the best group of guys in the country on this team.”