Hunter’s first love was football, which he started playing in seventh grade at just 4-foot-11 and 88 pounds. It was in high school that he utilized the weight room to improve his size and strength as a cornerback, consistently adding 15-20 pounds every year and graduating at 205 pounds. “I had every lifting record on the team,” he recalls. Oddly enough, his father not only never pushed training on him, but was always concerned Hunter was safe. “I called him SafetySteve,” Hunter laughs. “I would come home and tell him, hey dad, I squatted 315 today for the first time, and he would tell me to please be careful.”
Football is a brutally physical game, and even young Mr. Labrada was not immune to injury. Over his high school football career, he suffered three concussions, and missed much of his final season due to a serious hamstring strain and an avulsion fracture in his hip. “In football, it’s not a matter of if you will get hurt,” he explains. “It’s when, and how badly. I feel fortunate that I got out without any injuries that would have affected me in terms of training for bodybuilding.”
Still, he was a good enough football player to garner an athletic scholarship to a Division 2 school, Bentley University in my own hometown of Waltham, Massachusetts. Harboring no illusions of an NFL career, Hunter soon realized he no longer enjoyed playing as he once had and decided to move on. He transferred to Texas A&M University where he earned a degree in economics. Back in his senior year of high school when his lower body was healing from injuries, he’d adopted a typical “bro training split” and had seen fantastic results. He was well aware that he shared his father’s gifted genetics, and it was time to pick up the family legacy.
THE STRATEGIC ROAD TO THE PRO RANKS
Hunter decided to become a pro bodybuilder at the age of 19 yet did not compete in his first competition until he was 25. He had a long-term plan that would be taken in steps: local show, regional show, junior national contest, and finally national contest/ pro qualifier. Unlike most young athletes today, he was not in a mad rush to turn pro.
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