Senior Bowl 2013: Margus Hunt making a name for himself

USA TODAY Sports

From Estonia to SMU, is NFL stardom next for Margus Hunt?

Mobile, Ala. -- If you were to ask 100 people if they knew anyone from Estonia, they more than likely would draw a blank. If you asked anyone at Southern Methodist University or at the 2013 Senior Bowl if they knew anyone from Estonia they would rave about one man.

That man is Margus Hunt, who is originally from Estonia, a country west of Russia and just below Finland.

Hunt has been an attraction since his first day at SMU, and that hasn't changed since he landed in Mobile. Hunt measured in as the tallest player at the Senior Bowl at just over 6'8, and he weighed in at 278 pounds. His size and athleticism led to Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com to name him the biggest freak in college football this year and say Hunt "sounds like a PlayStation creation."

Hunt is just happy to be in Mobile, but the media attention is something he is used to.

"The media is not a surprise because with my track and field years, I was involved with media all the time, getting interviewed and stuff, but this is something I'm used to. It's not overwhelming," Hunt explained. "It's a tremendous blessing and honor to get an invite to this, and I was hoping to be considered, but I had to make sure I was playing at a high enough level to even be considered. It shows that hard works pays off," Hunt said.

"This week has been going good. I got in Saturday around noon and got all the physicals and paperwork done. It's been a different experience with all the meetings with the teams, and I just have to push through it and stay positive and make sure everything gets done," the former SMU Mustang added.

Hunt referenced his track and field career numerous times Monday to media members and NFL teams and for good reason. Hunt won the junior gold medal in Beijing in 2006, setting a world record in the discus, and later won gold in the shot put, as well, becoming the first ever Estonia junior gold medalist.

Hunt came to the U.S. -- and SMU specifically -- to work with SMU track and field coach Dave Wollman, who had worked with an Estonian athlete before. But by the time Hunt got to SMU, the Mustangs no longer had a men's track and field team.

Hunt's football career started after a year of paying his own way at SMU before he tried out for Mustangs coach June Jones and earned a scholarship. Hunt not only gained notoriety for his size, but also for his on-field performances. He broke the NCAA record for blocked kicks in a career with 17 total.

In Hunt's last game at the 2012 Hawaii Bowl, he set himself up for even more attention with his dominant performance that resulted in an upset of Frenso State and a bowl MVP award.

In the first half of that game alone, Hunt recorded three tackles for loss, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a safety.

"The bowl game itself, at one point it hit me that that was my last game at SMU, and I had to make sure I was as prepared as I could possibly be. So when we flew over there, I had five or six game films on Fresno State, and I watched when they were winning what the defense was doing and what they weren't doing," Hunt explained.

"I got a pretty good sense of it and I just made sure I was ready to play. All the free time we had in Hawaii I just spent in my room getting ready," Hunt said.

The effort to not only study but understand film will be something NFL teams will love about the 6'8 behemoth.

Before arriving in Mobile, Hunt was training at the IMG sports academy in Florida, which is one of the most notable training facilities in the country.

"I'm at the IMG academy in Florida. The past month, I have been working with a pass rush specialist to get more efficient and get better with engaging and working with my hands. Other than that, it's been the basic training for the 40 and the shuttle, broad jump and vertical. There is so much work left to do so I can just go from there," Hunt said.

Wollman has been quoted predicting Hunt will run a 4.6 40-yard dash and bench press the 225 pounds at the NFL Combine 45 times. Some comparisons for Hunt have already been made to NFL players Jason Pierre-Paul, who was a huge athlete out of South Florida but had a high ceiling with his size and athleticism, and Dontari Poe, who used his size and numbers in the NFL Combine events to shoot up the draft board before last year's draft.

But the most important thing to Hunt is just to prove to people that he belongs.

"I want to prove I am able to compete at the highest level. This is the best of the best in the game, so I am able to compete in the pass rush and play the run well and just show them that I can be successful at the next level."

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