Friday, November 16, 2012
Kicking it with Florida DT Omar Hunter
By Edward Aschoff
Florida redshirt senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter has seen it all with the Gators.
He was a part of a national championship squad during his freshman season back in 2008. He went to the Sugar Bowl in 2009. And he's a win away from seeing another 10-win season in Gainesville.
But he's also seen dark times, like 2010 and 2011, where the Gators won just 13 games combined and dropped into the category of mediocre. He also saw the coach who recruited him, Urban Meyer, retire, come back and retire again before taking a new job.
He was there for Will Muschamp's hiring and has now had three different defensive coordinators coaching him. He's been a real trooper for the Gators, and with 53 games under his belt, 103 tackles (10 for loss) and a blocked field goal to his name, Hunter and the rest of Florida's seniors will say goodbye to the Swamp Saturday against Jacksonville State.
The old man took some time from bingo to talk to ESPN.com about his career at Florida:
Omar Hunter has had a significant impact on Florida's resurgence this season.
You've been at Florida for probably 35 head coaches now, and with this being your last game in the Swamp, how does it feel to know this will be the last time you run onto Florida Field with your uniform on?
Omar Hunter: Honestly, it hasn't even hit me yet, but it's been a long time coming, man. It's been an honor to play for the Florida Gators and be a part of this program. I've enjoyed every moment of it and I'm looking forward to my senior day.
Now Chris Rainey did a back flip during his senior day moment. Any chance we'll see that out of you?
OH: I honestly don't know what I'm going to do, but I promise you I won't do a back flip. No back flips will be done by me, but I'll probably just run out and take the whole moment in. It's been a great few years that I've been here and I've enjoyed it. When senior day comes I'm sure I'll be very emotional and I'm just looking forward to it.
You've seen the highs and the lows during your time at Florida. What's it been like for you over these four-plus years?
OH: It's been incredible -- to come in and win a national championship my freshman year and then make it to the Sugar Bowl after that. Then, the program kind of fell off for a little bit, but coming back with Coach Muschamp, he's really brought it back from the bottom. I've been happy to be a part of this process and get Florida back on top, back to the BCS level that it should always stay at. It's been an honor to be on this team. Just knowing that I had an effect on some of these guys' careers here at Florida has been an honor. That's just as good as winning a championship, being able to say I affected somebody else's life or helped this person who has done so much more for me.
When you look back at the start of your career, you had injury issues and weight issues. Do you ever sit there and wonder what could have been if you were as healthy as you are now or playing like you are now back then?
OH: Yeah, man, but it's all a process of growing up and maturing. I don't take anything that happened back -- I enjoyed it all. It's been a great experience and a great ride.
What moment during your career sticks out the most in your mind outside of winning a national championship?
OH: Probably the LSU game this year. With everything that I've been through, to be a part of a team that battles and pulls together to win as a team would probably be the highlight of my career -- beating LSU. The national championship my freshman year was great, but as far as a team win and being a part of this program, that memory (LSU) will always stick with me.
What were your emotions after that game?
OH: Man, I was so emotional I couldn't even describe it. So much pressure was lifted off of me and myself. My teammates, my defensive line, my unit, being able to play physical with one of the country's top teams and coming out with the win was definitely big for us.
Now that you see the direction this program is going in, is there any chance you try to seek one more year of eligibility?
OH: Absolutely not. My time at Florida is done. I've enjoyed every second of it, but I don't need to be back here. My time is up and it's time for a new generation to come along and make everyone forget about Omar.
So what's next for you?
OH: I've had thoughts about playing at the next level, and if that comes I'd love to play at the next level. Hopefully I can. I think I can. I've proved a lot under Coach [Dan] Quinn and Coach Muschamp and with this program, and it's really benefited me in a good way. If the next level comes, I'd love to do that. But if not, just find a job and move on with my life.
What was your major and what would you do with it as a career?
OH: It was psychology and I have no idea what I'd like to do.
Well, you're pretty personable and knowledgeable when it comes to football. What about coaching?
OH: I've thought about it, but then I see what these grad assistants go through and all the work that Coach Muschamp and his staff puts in and I'm like, "Nope. Absolutely not." I like to be around my family too much, man, and with the amount of work these guys put in it's incredible.
So this has to be kind of an exciting time in your life with few games left and then an unknown future, right?
OH: It is. It's fun and it's strange and it's scary. You mold all of those emotions into one. That's why your senior year is so special because the unknown factor is there. I just take it one day at a time and one game at a time. Hopefully, the NFL is the next step, but if that's not going to happen, I'm not going to worry or stress on that.