What's in a name with Hunter Jumper

Fire draftee on horse racing, social networking and making the 2012 roster

When you meet and first speak to Hunter Jumper, its likely the initial topic of conversation will begin with his name, an occurrence he’s become used to.

“I’ve been made fun of a good amount for my name over the years but it is what it is,” laughing off the thousands of times someone’s asked him jokingly if it was a family name…

When using popular social networking sites, he’s not liked or followed en masse based of a successful collegiate career at the University of Virginia or having been recently drafted by a Major League Soccer club, though his name has led to intrigue from fans of another sport.

“More than anything on Facebook I seem to get a million friend requests from random horse lovers because they think my name means I’m a horse person. I just got Twitter and almost all the people that are following me are horse people. I want to be clear, I don’t know anything about horse jumping, racing or even polo.”

If you want to do him a solid and balance out the soccer to horse jumping ratio on this Fire Draftee’s Twitter account, go ahead and follow him @HunterJumper_. (Yes that’s an underscore at the end, @HunterJumper was taken by someone that hasn’t yet tweeted).

Texas in his blood

While Jumper’s spent the last few years on the east coast in Charlottesville, he hails from the Dallas suburb of Plano, TX, where he joined another Fire player, midfielder Corben Bone, playing youth soccer for the nationally renowned Solar Soccer Club.

More than that, Jumper grew up supporting his hometown MLS club and Fire Brimstone Cup rivals the Dallas Burn.

“I used to be a big time Burn fan,” Jumper said. “When they became FC Dallas we still had season tickets and would always go to the game but it wasn’t quite the same. I was more of an old school Burn fan back in the days with [Ariel] Grazziani and Jason Kreis. Now it’s a completely new team and new coach and I haven’t followed the past couple years. I know about the Brimstone Cup but I’m on this side now. It’s always going to be a little different playing your hometown team but I’d be proud to represent the Fire.”

Earning a Spot

Before being able to represent the Fire, Jumper will need to make the team first.

Having appeared in 79 matches, tallying five goals and 13 assists, Jumper helped the Cavaliers to their sixth NCAA national championship in 2009. While mainly a left back, Jumper stands at 6-2 and is capable of playing in the center of the backline as well as on the left wing and center of the park in midfield.

Selected 28th overall at this month’s MLS SuperDraft, Jumper counts his current situation and versatility as an asset.

“Just going in I feel like I fit in well with the guys. I really like the coaching staff and I just want to do the things I do well: pass the ball, see the field and get stuck in everyday. I feel if I’ve given all that I’ve got and compete, I’ll get better along the way and hopefully that will pay off down the road with me signing for this team and moving forward. It’s a really nice opportunity and one of the things that helps is my versatility as a player.”

Learning through Observation

Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas made little secret for the reasons he selected Jumper earlier this month.

We were trying to make some moves to get cover on the left side and Hunter was there," said the Fire manager addressing depth issues on the left.

Left back Gonzalo Segares led the team in games (38) and minutes played (3408) last year, missing only two matches both due to suspension. Midfielder Mike Banner who was a sometimes fill-in at left back in prior years, sat out all of 2011 with injuries and it was announced Monday he wouldn’t be returning to the club, while last year’s Open Tryout winner Pari Pantazopoulos was converted to left back from a midfield position.

It’s a stark contrast to the other fullback spot where rookie Jalil Anibaba began 2011, captain Logan Pause deputizing there in midseason before the team traded for defender Dan Gargan from Toronto FC last July. The MLS veteran has made the position his own but even still, at least on paper there is much more depth on the right side than the left.

If Jumper makes the team, he’ll likely slot in as cover on the left and he believes he’ll have done it by playing an understudy to the club’s incumbent starting defenders.

“The first thing I committed myself to doing when I got here was to watch everyone just because these guys are the best at what they do. Just watching guys like Jalil, Cory and Gonzalo play, they’re extremely composed on the ball, very competitive, know how to keep the ball in front of them. Everyday I’m just trying to improve my play but also learn from observation.”

Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire.