A Tribute to Hunter Pearson

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

His shoes. His helmet.

And of course his jersey.

No. 30 is on display, behind glass, with a light breaking through a dark locker much like No. 30 used to break through tackles.

Hunter Pearson’s locker inside the Columbia River football team’s locker room is now a memorial.

Hunter Pearson breaks a tackle during a game last fall for the Columbia River Chieftains. Pearson died in a drowning accident in May.
Hunter Pearson breaks a tackle during a game last fall for the Columbia River Chieftains. Pearson died in a drowning accident in May.
Hunter Pearson’s locker in the Columbia River football locker room is now a memorial. Pearson, one of the top players on the team last fall, died in May. His coach, Christian Swain, wants to make sure Pearson’s legacy of being a quality person and teammate is remembered.
Hunter Pearson’s locker in the Columbia River football locker room is now a memorial. Pearson, one of the top players on the team last fall, died in May. His coach, Christian Swain, wants to make sure Pearson’s legacy of being a quality person and teammate is remembered.

“He was worthy of being honored that way,” Columbia River coach Christian Swain said, noting he is hoping the display gives his players the same feeling he has when he looks at it.

“I hope it will be good for them to see him every day, maybe bring some comfort to the locker room,” Swain said.

Pearson, the heart and soul of the team as a senior last fall and a wildly popular student for being quiet, sincere, gracious and encouraging, died May 27 in a drowning accident.

Pearson had five 100-yard rushing performances in his final season with the Chieftains and was a preferred walk-on to play football at Utah State.

Yes, he was that good, but his coach will remember him for so much more.

“He was a better person than he was a football player,” Swain said.

“He was very unselfish. He had no entitlement at all,” the coach added. “At an age when kids are getting more and more entitled, he did not possess any of that.”

While the school has not yet officially retired Pearson’s number – those plans are in the works – Swain knows no one will wear it while he is the coach.

In fact, he knows where all three of Pearson’s No. 30 jerseys are, and each has a special home. One is with Hunter’s parents, Swain said. The other is in the locker. And the third will eventually be displayed in the school.

“He was that special,” Swain said. “He was just a special kid.”

Hunter Pearson had five 100-yard rushing games last season for Columbia River. His coach said he was a better person than football player. Pearson died in May.
Hunter Pearson had five 100-yard rushing games last season for Columbia River. His coach said he was a better person than football player. Pearson died in May.
Hunter Pearson’s football locker. Photo by Mike Schultz.

The Freedom Bowl Classic, an all-star game which allows recent graduates from Southwest Washington to play one final football game in Clark County, is Saturday at McKenzie Stadium. Swain is the coach of the West team. He said he will honor Pearson during halftime, but is not yet sure if it will be a public statement or a private moment with the Pearson family.

Regardless, Hunter Pearson’s name will always be remembered at Columbia River.

“He was such a tremendous kid, I want to save his legacy here,” Swain said.

The special locker display, which also includes his gloves, a water bottle, and some photos of him in action, is one of the first steps toward that mission.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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