Rodney Gunter has been a man in demand.
Gunter, a defensive lineman from Delaware State, might not be well-known among media pundits and draftniks, but he’s been a hot commodity as the countdown to the draft marches on.
Gunter has taken eight predraft visits. By the time he and his family gather for the draft and enjoy a cookout in his hometown of Lake Hamilton, Fla., he will have taken 10 — including to Green Bay to meet with Packers scouts and coaches on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I’m enjoying the traveling around and the different visits and different workouts,” Gunter said this week. “I’m embracing the process. I’m ready for the draft and ready to start my career as an NFL player.”
Gunter is the type of diamond-in-the-rough prospect that excites scouts. Because Delaware State went 2-10, there wasn’t any buzz around the program and, as a byproduct, Gunter’s dominance went largely unnoticed.
All Gunter did was produce, earning all-conference accolades during his final three seasons. As the obvious starting point for every opponent’s game plan as a senior, Gunter piled up seven of the team’s 17 sacks. His 13 tackles for losses were almost twice as many as any other defender on the team.
“Man, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to me,” Gunter said. “Toward the end of my senior year, it’s like, now I feel like a prospect.”
At 6-foot-4 and 298 pounds, he’s got great size. And with video of Gunter dunking a basketball while tipping the scales at 310 pounds, he’s got great athleticism, as well.
So how did someone with that physical skill-set wind up going from Florida to a FCS-level school located in Dover, Del.? Because he played just one season of high school football, he wasn’t on recruiting radars.
“I had to get a job and help my mom pay the bills,” Gunter explained. “My mom was a single parent and I had to sacrifice playing football for my first three years in high school. I played my senior year. That’s why I went to Delaware State. I was underrated coming out of high school. I didn’t have any offers. Delaware State found me on a Web site and offered me a full scholarship and I took it. I was excited to go anywhere to play football.”
Gunter wasted no time proving he belonged. He was among the Hornets’ top defenders all four seasons. When he earned second-team all-conference honors as a sophomore with 5.5 sacks and nine tackles for losses, Gunter allowed himself to do more than dream of playing in the NFL.
“I imagined it but it seemed so unreal,” Gunter said, looking back. “I’m speechless now. It just seems so unreal.”
His presence drew scouts from 10 teams to Delaware State’s pro day on March 12. He ran his 40-yard dash in 5.00 seconds and put up 20 reps on the 225-pound bench press. Not only does he have great size but he’s got length, too, with 33 3/8-inch arms.
Regardless of whether he’s drafted, Gunter is certain to be in an NFL camp. His hopes go beyond just making a roster.
“I won’t compare myself to J.J. Watt but I have the potential to play like J.J. Watt because I’m versatile,” he said. “I can move around — inside or outside. I have the potential one day to be as great as him. I’m a hard worker. I play hard every play and I give it my all.”
The NFL has been Gunter’s dream. Now, it’s about to become his reality. He’s allowed himself to think about what that moment is going to be like when his phone rings either late in the draft or in the free-agent frenzy immediately afterward on May 2.
“It’s going to be a priceless moment I’m never going to forget,” he said. “I can see the moment happening two weeks from now. I can see it happening.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.