Combine Winner Gets Plenty of Attention

The Packers doubled-down on their time with this potential-packed defensive lineman. This fast-rising player, who owns the NCAA record for blocked kicks, put up monster numbers in the 40 and on the bench.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson went to SMU.

So did Margus Hunt.

Is that connection worth three conversations? Or do the Packers have a genuine interest in the towering, athletic defensive end?

Hunt met with "Mr. Thompson" at the Senior Bowl and informally and formally at the Scouting Combine, he told Packer Report after stepping away from the podium at the Combine last week.

Hunt is arguably the most intriguing prospect in this draft. Athletically, he's off the charts. Among the 58 defensive linemen in Indianapolis, Hunt ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.60) and put up the most reps in the 225-pound bench press (38). Making his 40-yard time more impressive, the 6-foot-8, 277-pound Hunt outweighed the fastest of the linemen (Connecticut's Trevardo Williams and LSU's Barkevious Mingo, both of whom probably will play linebacker in the NFL) by 36 pounds.

He's turned some of that potential into production. As a senior, Hunt turned in eight sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. He blocked three kicks for an NCAA-record 17 for his career.

What makes Hunt so intriguing is he's so new to the game.

A native of Estonia, Hunt won the shot put and discus at the 2006 World Junior Championships, the first junior to achieve that double. SMU had shuttered its men's track program in 2004 but renowned coach Dave Wollman still headed the women's program. So, Hunt enrolled at SMU in 2007 to work privately with Wollman.

During that first year on campus, he attended a couple football games but "I was rather lost" in following the action, he said.

While football wasn't on Hunt's radar, Hunt was on the football team's radar. After months of prodding from the coaches, he tried out for the team in November 2008.

"It was a leap of fate, essentially," Hunt said. "I really wanted to stay in Dallas, stay at SMU, and finish off my degree. That was my main goal because I really didn't want to go back to Estonia or go to another college in the United States and start over. The football coaches during the year I was there doing track, they talked to me a lot in the weight room and told me that, ‘You need to try out.'"

To help learn the nuances of the sport, Hunt bought a "Madden" video game and went to work during Christmas break. In January 2009, Hunt was told he had earned a full scholarship for football.

He was an honorable mention on the all-Conference USA team as a freshman, sophomore and junior. As a freshman, he blocked an astounding seven kicks. It wasn't until the bowl game at the end of his junior season, however, that Hunt became more than just a great athlete playing football. In the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh, Hunt piled up three sacks and five tackles for losses.

"That was the first time that I just went for it and I knew the schemes inside and out so I didn't have to worry as much about where I was supposed to be because I knew my assignment and my alignment," he said.

Hunt was first-team all-C-USA as a senior. He capped his career with a dominating performance in the Hawaii Bowl, with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety in a rout of Fresno State.

One knock on him, other than his lack of experience, is he'll be a 26-year-old rookie. Nonetheless, based on potential and upside, it wouldn't be a surprise for Hunt to go in the first round. From Green Bay's perspective, the Packers' defensive line combined to bat down four passes. Hunt, with his enormous frame, would pose an obvious challenge.

"I have so much to catch up on," Hunt said. "I've been playing the game for four years and I have a lot of position skills, specifically pass-rush stuff, to work on. My goal is to go back to Dallas and start grinding on it."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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