© 2023 BSN LIVE, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
July 3, 2020.
Colby Garvin had just wrapped up his junior year in high school. He was finally going to be the top dog in school. A senior.
Entering his senior year, the Queen Creek High School dual athlete of the class of 2021 was ranked as the 12th best wide receiver in the state and placed in the top 100 rankings for basketball.
He had a lot to look forward to over the next twelve months.
Suddenly, the 17-year-old’s daily perspective on life faced a significant and unexpected challenge.
A challenge that came in the form of losing a teammate and a best friend in Hunter Vindiola.
While on a trip with his family for the Fourth of July holiday in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, Vindiola’s life was tragically taken during an off-roading accident.
“I was literally hanging out with him on the third,” Garvin said. “He went with his family on the fourth and the accident happened.”
Vindiola’s unexpected passing at the age of 16-years-old posed a formidable challenge for young Garvin who was just one grade ahead of Vindiola.
The loss of Vindiola was felt not only by friends and family, but by the entire community of Queen Creek.
While Garvin made a vow to never forget his best friend, he had to keep pushing on with his own life. Tragic occurrences like this can often make it seem insurmountable to continue, Garvin uses this adversity as motivation to work even harder.
He does so in the form of ‘#hustleforhunter.’
An everlasting bond
The hashtag ‘hustle for Hunter’ has over 90 posts on Instagram and even more on X, with several contributions from Garvin himself.
Garvin’s X profile is almost entirely contributed to honoring his best friend with ‘#hustleforhunter’ as his bio and a beautiful drawing of Hunter in his football uniform with wings as his header.
For everyone who knew him and has contributed to ‘Hustle for Hunter,’ it carries a unique significance. For Garvin, it embodies the manner in which he leads his life.
“To me, it just means that you don’t ever know when your last day is,” Garvin said. “I just want to play as hard as I can, the best I can for him, because I know that’s what he would do if he was here right now. Hustle for Hunter is close to my heart. I got (it) tattooed on my shoulder for him.”
I did not know Hunter myself, but after talking with Garvin, I got a good idea of the person he was.
At the tender age of 16, Hunter received recognition that many could only dream of.
“He was the funniest kid I’ve ever met; always laughing, always joking,” Garvin said. “He’s just a really great dude, just one of those guys that you trust with anything, your family, anything. I would never question him. He was just a great dude.”
From the countless tributes composed of photos, videos and memories on social media, it is clear that Hunter was loved by all. He was a friend to all. He was someone to everyone.
He was especially someone to Garvin, who chooses to wake up everyday and work to be better on behalf of Hunter.
“(He was) always happy (and could) walk in the room and make the whole room happy,” Garvin said. “Just knowing that he can’t be here and I can, that’s why I play for him and through him.”
Hunter’s mom worked at Queen Creek High School as a front desk receptionist. Constantly being around all of the players made her an honorary second-mom to Garvin who recalls hanging out in her office to grab some snacks and… skip class sometimes, he hesitantly added.
It was the spot to be if you were a football player and Garvin took advantage of that more than most of the other players in order to spend more time with the two.
Playing for the brother he lost
The ASU offensive lineman was with Vindiola merelt 24 hours before the world lost him, providing him with a brand new outlook on life. One that most 20-year-olds do not have.
“To me, don’t take every day for granted,” Garvin said. “Come every day ready to work because you don’t know (if there’s) somebody who wishes they could be in the same spot that you are in.”
Waking up every day is special to Garvin, being able to play football is an added bonus.
He expresses immense gratitude for the opportunity to step onto the field each morning, particularly in the vicinity of his hometown, where he met and subsequently lost one of his most significant sources of inspiration in Vindiola.
Garvin was initially in the process of recruitment with his home team ASU before he chose a different route that led him to Dixie State – now called Utah State.
As a 6-foot-5 freshman, his height moved him from the wide receiver role to a tight end at Dixie State. The true freshman was competing with five other players for the position, including former ASU tight end Cade Veach and was not able to secure any playing time throughout the 2021 season.
Combining his desire for more playing time and a yearning to return to his hometown, Garvin entered the transfer portal following his freshman season. He eventually found his way back to what he describes as the “best school in the Valley.”
“I grew up a Sun Devils fan, so it only felt right to come back here,” Garvin said. “I have loved it ever since.”
After putting on some bulk in between his freshman and redshirt freshman season, the 250 pounded tight end thought it would be more viable to take his 6-foot-6 frame and move to an offensive lineman position for the current season.
Still struggling to find playing time, Garvin has not lost any motivation or love for the sport that he laces up for every day.
The drive primarily comes from the loss he endured entering his senior year. He is playing in part, because Hunter cannot.
“When I feel tired, I feel like taking a day off or taking a rep off, I know (that) he wouldn’t want me to do that and he wouldn’t do that if he was in my situation,” Garvin said. “So it’s like, why am I gonna take a day off because I feel tired (or) I feel sorry for myself when I can do something that other people can’t and be great for not only myself, but for the Vindiola family as well.”
As a stellar scout team member with knowledge on both ends of the ball, Garvin is still finding his footing on the field with no complaints because he recognizes that he’s not just playing for his own sake and his family but also for the Vindiola family.
“I miss him, I wish things were different but all I can do is keep being here and make him and his family happy,” Garvin said.
Garvin was the most selfless individual I’ve ever had the honor of conversing with. When speaking with him, he never mentioned himself unless prompted to and he only expressed aspirations when they were centered on bettering others.
“I just want my team to be successful, I want my team to win and I want the guys around me to be successful and grow as football players and as men in their life,” Garvin said. “Ultimately, (I want to) help out my team the best I can, whether they want me to play tackle or want me to play on field goal, wherever I can help the team I’m willing to do that.”
The redshirt sophomore still has three possible years of eligibility after this season and an abundance of room to grow.
With unwavering composure, a profound dedication and an innate commitment to excel, Garvin is poised for success. Driven not by self-centered motives, but by those around him and those he remembers.
Wherever life may lead him, Garvin is bound to achieve great heights.
Driven by Vindiola as the core source of his motivation, he is prepared to overcome any obstacle to achieve his aspirations.
As Garvin shared with his memories with Vindiola, it was clear that the loss is not haunting him, but instead is lifting him up.
Thinking about everything that Hunter was, it’s difficult not to wear a smile and experience a sense of connection through the stories that have been shared.
“Probably the most fun memories I can’t share,”Garvin said with a laugh. “(My favorite memories were) just how happy he was. I’ve never seen him without a smile on his face. It could be gloomy and a bad day for everyone but he would come in and make the clouds go away and the sun shine.”
Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!