Imagine coming to America from a foreign land to toss heavy objects great distances for an institution of higher learning. Now imagine that when you get to America, said institution of higher learning has discontinued the very program which was the impetus for your emigration to America. What would you do if faced with such a dilemma?
If you’re Margus Hunt, you just leave your shot put and discus at the door and pick up a helmet and shoulder pads. The native of Estonia came to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX in 2009 to train with world-renowned track and field coach Dave Wollman. When he arrived he was greeted with the stunning news that SMU dropped its track and field program. So Hunt did what any of us would have done – no, not go back to where we came – rather make a nice big jug of lemonade from the lemons you’ve been handed.
Hunt, a 2012 First Team All C-USA defensive end possesses freakish physical attributes: 6’8″, 280 lbs, a 4.74 40-yd dash time, and an 82″ wingspan. He was the first junior athlete ever to win a gold medal in both shot put and discus in the same year at the World Junior Championships in 2006 in Beijing. That said, the transition for Hunt from track and field to football did not come without a learning curve. In his first season, he played in 13 games, but only recorded 8 tackles. However, he did almost double a school record for blocked kicks (4) and he came within one block of tying the NCAA record.
In 2010, he started 13 games at defensive end, named an All-Conference USA honorable mention, recorded three sacks, 45 tackles (6.5 for loss), and blocked three kicks. 2011 saw a bit of a regression in Hunt’s stats, registering only 28 tackles. However, 7.5 of those tackles were for a loss and he also blocked 4 kicks en route to a second straight All C-USA honorable mention nod. In 2012, his final season with the Mustangs, Margus started all 13 games, finishing with 31 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss (8 of which were sacks), one interception, two pass break-ups, three passes defensed and a pair of forced fumbles. For the effort in his senior season Hunt was awarded 1st Team All C-USA honors.
Quite possibly Hunt’s most impressive single game performances came on SMU’s biggest stages…the bowl games. He registered a sack in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl, a blocked a PAT in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl, 3 sacks and 5 tackles in the 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl, and was the best player on the field for SMU’s 43-10 blowout win against Fresno St. in the 2012 Hawaii Bowl. In his final game for the Mustangs, he forced 2 fumbles which resulted in FG’s, recorded a sack in the end zone for an SMU safety, and was in the Bulldogs backfield most of the game.
I have been following this young man throughout the 2012 season and I am very impressed with his ability to dominate his opponents. However, he will be somewhat of a work in progress. He has tremendous upside and physical gifts that an elite defensive coordinator, maybe one named Jack Del Rio, would wring his hands in anticipation over. He is a bit inconsistent though. His dominant Hawaii Bowl performance is documented, but he struggled in the Senior Bowl against Alabama OT D.J. Fluker. His struggles seemed more related to technique and his inexperience than his physicality. After all, he has only four years of football experience under his belt.
Hunt is projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and with his last two games pretty much canceling each other out, 2-3 is where he’ll most likely stay. Additionally, this is a very deep draft for defensive front seven talent so there is more value in the first two rounds than that which Hunt would provide. However, if he should be there when the Denver Broncos select in the third round, John Elway should be elbowing people out of the way to get that selection card to the podium.
Are there any good Estonian restaurants on the Front Range?