Bunting Will Prove Doubters Wrong ... Again

Evidently, being named Conference USA's Defensive Player of the Year wasn't enough to earn Tulsa MLB Nick Bunting an invitation to the NFL Combine. But that's okay. Bunting has proven doubters wrong before, and he's ready to do it again.

At 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, Tulsa University standout Nick Bunting isn't exactly your prototypical NFL prospect at the linebacker position. Luckily for Bunting, he's heard it all before - and proved everyone wrong.

Bunting graduated from a small private high school, Tulsa Holland Hall, and was given little chance to play Division I football in an area flooded with big time Texas players.

Born and raised in Tulsa, Bunting got the call from his hometown college and the rest is history.

"People doubted me, but I went in and proved myself from day one," he said. "I knew coming in people wouldn't think of me as a big time player. I knew I was going to have to prove a lot of people wrong."

He immediately caught the coaching staff's eye and once two-a-days started, Bunting quickly found himself bumped up to the first team.

"I just started hitting guys and knocking some people down," he said. "I never thought about the guys being bigger than me. I played at 205 pounds as a middle linebacker my freshman year."

As a true freshman, Bunting was named to the Scripps/FWAA Freshman All-American Team, the Freshman All-American second-team by CollegeFootballNews.com and was selected as the WAC Freshman of the Year. He  racked up 79 tackles in his debut season despite missing two games due to an injury.

Undoubtedly, one thing that pro scouts will notice about Bunting as they review his performance and resume is that those two missed games were the only ones of his entire collegiate career. Bunting started in 47 consecutive games through his final game as a senior.

"The only way I'm not going to play is if something really bad happens to my legs and I can't run," he said. "If it's a shoulder or something like that, I'm going to play through it. There's a difference between being injured and hurt."

Much like he started it, Bunting ended his career at Tulsa with a bang, as he was named 2006 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. He finished with 317 tackles, the eighth most in school history. And he earned All-Conference honors for the fourth time in as many years.

Unbelievably, earning the conference's defensive player of the year award wasn't enough of an attention getter for Bunting to receive an invitation to the Combine in Indianapolis. So now Bunting must again prove his doubters wrong. He must prove that he's big enough to play linebacker in the NFL. Fortunately for him, other NFL players have started to pave the road for linebackers of his size. One example is Colts starting middle linebacker Gary Brackett who weighs the same as Bunting and is actually two inches shorter. Brackett faced some of the same obstacles coming out of Rutgers as an undrafted free agent, but proved his ability on the field in training camp, starting out as a top-notch special teams player.

To his advantage, Bunting played significant time at all three linebacker positions during his time at Tulsa which should make him even more attractive to NFL clubs.

"The last part of the season, I probably played all three positions equal time," he said.

Realizing he may have to work his way into a linebacker spot at the NFL level just as Brackett did, Bunting also has good experience on special teams. He played left tackle on the punt team and said his side of the line didn't give up a single blocked punt during his career.

"I enjoyed special teams just as much as I did defense and I know that's something I'll have to do in the NFL and I'd love to be on special teams," Bunting said. "I just want to be a part of something and if that's what they call me to do, that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to do it with passion and a lot of pride."

Bunting will participate in Tulsa's upcoming Pro Day on March 19th and will fight for a chance to make an NFL roster this fall. Regardless of what happens, he's determined to stay active on the gridiron.

"I'm going to take the same approach as I did coming into college to the NFL," he said. "I just know that I am not done playing football right now."

Check back on Monday for our Draft Q&A with Nick Bunting, an exclusive for Scout.com subscribers!

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