Toronto Argonauts’ offensive lineman Ryan Hunter is focused on bringing his team a victory in the 109th Grey Cup but starting at left guard on the CFL’s biggest stage won’t be the most high-profile job he’s ever had.
In March 2019, the native of North Bay, Ont. spent several weeks as an intern in the office of United States senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, using his massive frame to help push legislation through Congress rather than push around defensive linemen.
“I enjoyed it,” Hunter recalled following practice at Mosaic Stadium in Regina. “I got to learn a lot about the United States Capitol system and kind of how day-to-day operations work as far as a legislative campaign goes.”
The six-foot-three, 315-pound blocker received the opportunity as part of the NFL Players’ Association’s Externship program, which allows active players to participate in internships and job shadowing at a number of major corporations and government institutions.
A long-time political junkie who majored in criminal justice at Bowling Green with a minor in political science, Hunter applied for the program while he was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs in order to test the waters of a potential post-football career.
“I was looking to find a senator who had worked in law previously and is also kind of a more up-and-coming senator,” he explained. “At the time, Senator Hawley was a great choice and playing for the Chiefs, you couldn’t ask for much better than working for the senator from the state that your professional football team was located in.”
A former attorney general of Missouri, Hawley was sworn in as a senator in January 2019 after beating out incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill. He has since risen to prominence as one of the Republican party’s most outspoken far-right voices, becoming the subject of national controversy following the 2020 presidential election for his public objection to the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
Hawley became a household name when he was famously photographed raising his fist in support of pro-Trump protesters ahead of the January 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol. He currently sits on four major Senate committees, including Armed Services, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Judiciary Committee.
As a Canadian, Hunter still felt entirely comfortable navigating the complex world of American politics. After moving to Buffalo, N.Y. in high school to expand his recruiting exposure, he spent his entire collegiate career south of the border and his interest in the land of the two-party system.
“Most of my adult development was in the U.S. I feel like politically, I understood the United States’ system more than the Canadian because as a child in Canada or as a child in general, you don’t really understand politics,” Hunter said. “As you grow and become an adult, you start following it more and that was when I was in the U.S.”
After going unselected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Hunter signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. He spent two years with the team, dressing in three regular season games along with their victory in Super LIV. He later joined the Los Angeles Chargers’ practice squad for two seasons but was released as part of training camp cuts earlier this year.
Having been selected ninth overall in the first round of the 2018 CFL Draft by Toronto, the highly-anticipated offensive lineman finally signed with the Argos on September 23 of this year. He has played in just six games so far in his CFL career but has made an immediate impact, starting the past three contests and seizing control of the left guard spot.
With the Regina weather expected to ratchet up the importance of the run game on Sunday, Hunter could play a pivotal role in the Grey Cup while opening holes for Andrew Harris and A.J. Ouellette. However, a message from Hawley is unlikely if the Argos win given that the two have not stayed connected in the years since the internship.
“Between moving to L.A. and then back to Canada and with COVID and everything, it was tough to stay in touch,” Hunter said. “I keep an eye on politics no matter what just because as an adult, it’s important. I keep track of politics, but we haven’t been in contact since I won the Super Bowl in 2019.”
While his obsession with the subject has waned somewhat since the internship four years ago, Hunter says he still remains intrigued by the prospect of a career in politics. He has considered working for a senator or governor again in the future or joining the lobbying sector but hopes those decisions remain a long way down the road.
“Thankfully, football I’ve been able to do for the last four or five years and so my post-football playing career has still been postponed for now,” Hunter grinned. “Hopefully, I can postpone it for another eight to 10 years.”