SMU's Margus Hunt aims to impress
Track star-turned-defensive lineman can open eyes at NFL scouting combine
As the NFL descends upon Indianapolis this week for the annual scouting combine, SMU defensive lineman Margus Hunt will be one of the main attractions.
At 6-foot-8¼ and 277 pounds, Hunt will have a chance to drop jaws by how fast he runs his 40-yard dash, how many times he bench presses 225 pounds and how quickly he goes through other timed drills.
But Hunt does not want to talk about his specific goals for the combine. Better to keep them a secret.
His defensive line coach at SMU, however, is more willing to make a prediction.
"He'll run under a 4.7 40, and I told him on the bench press that when he gets to 40 to just rack it, it doesn't matter," Bert Hill said. "The sky's the limit. He's got it all."
Predicted a long-time NFL scout about Hunt, "He will be the combine phenom and his name will blow up."
Some mock drafts already have Hunt as a first-round selection, which would be a first for SMU since 1986 when two players went in the opening round (Rod Jones, Reggie Dupard). Others see him as a second- or third-round pick.
A dominating combine performance could move Hunt up the draft boards.
All of this with only four years of football experience.
Hunt left Estonia for SMU to perfect his track craft as a thrower with legendary coach Dave Wollman, even though the school dropped its track program. His goal was to be an Olympian. He won gold medals at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing in the shot put and discus. He remains the junior record-holder in the discus.
His brother in-law agreed to pay for one year of school with the idea he would earn a scholarship going forward. With the year about up, Wollman introduced Hunt to the football coaches, who put him through a mini-combine of their own.
"We put him on the grass field and had him run a 40," Hill said. "He ran a 4.7 and he really didn't know the stance or how to run it, so he just got down and ran. He did the short-shuttle and had great change of direction. We put him on the bags. Finally we said, 'We think he can play.'"
In the first spring practice, "I was lost," Hunt said. "We had the walkthrough period and I ran out with the first team and the coaches looked at me like, 'What the hell are you doing?'"
Four years later, Hunt is prepared to show he is ready for the NFL.
And he credits his track background with helping his football development.
"There's a lot of technique and detail to be done in discus throwing," Hunt said. "If you think of the throw itself, it takes a second or a less amount of time. But you have to do all of those movements at the right time and with the right strength, so you have to learn to control your body the whole time and generate as much power as possible. That's helped me with football, learning technique. I'm really a visual learner and learn watching film and apply that to the practice field."
In four years, Hunt recorded 16.5 sacks, 28 tackles for loss and blocked an NCAA-record 17 kicks, including seven as a freshman.
"I think a big benefit for him is he's a big piece of clay that can be molded," said Hunt's agent, CJ Laboy. "He's going to listen. He's going to do what he needs to do. He's going to do everything he can to please."
Athletically, Hunt will test off the charts, but he said the more important part of the week for him will be meeting with coaches and general managers.
In Hill's office after the SMU season, Hunt diagrammed every SMU defense, giving not only his responsibility on the play but of every defender. They went over every offensive personnel grouping. He didn't miss a thing.
"One thing is what you do on the field and then what's ahead of you is the combine," Hunt said. "I'm definitely ready to be in Indy and compete and do all that stuff, but the interview process will be a crucial part because that defines whether or not I can play. I want to show the coaches and GMs and everyone that I know football and I want to play football and it's something solely my future is on now."