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2013 NFL Combine: Margus Hunt learned football from video games

Former SMU defensive end Margus Hunt said he learned much of what he originally knew about football from playing the Madden video games.


INDIANAPOLIS -- Former SMU defensive end Margus Hunt is big. Really, really big. When he stepped up to the podium on Sunday at the NFL Combine to address the media within Lucas Oil Stadium, his head was close to the top of the backdrop. Hunt measured at 6'8 and weighed in at 277 pounds at the Combine. He won't run his 40 or do any other on-field drills, but he's known for being extremely fast despite his size, making him one of the "freak" athletes that every team drools over.

Hunt has generated a lot of buzz. He showed the ability to completely dominate a game from the defensive end position and, due to the fact that he's fairly new to football, he's not done learning yet. That makes his upside nearly unlimited. The native Estonian originally came to the United States as a track and field star, as he was a junior champion at both shot put and discus. When things didn't work out with track and field, he turned to football.

He hasn't looked back since.

The funny thing about Hunt is that even though he has the potential to be a top-10 pick, he probably doesn't know nearly as much about the game as some of the players at the same position. He told the media on Sunday that he used the Madden NFL video games to help learn the game.

After trying out for coaches, as he didn't have a scholarship, Hunt said the only experience he had with football was from attending a few games as a student. He bought Madden to help learn the game.

"After the tryout, I flew home for Christmas, got Madden NFL and I started playing," Hunt said.

When he first started playing football, he said he used Madden to pick up the basics of the game, even as far as learning "how many people are on the field at one time."

Hunt's size and skillset have many analysts believing that he would best fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense, which is something Hunt confirmed that coaches have been telling him. He's a little older than most of the other draft prospects at 25 years old, but the lack of wear and tear on his body from years of football makes him extremely attractive.

Hunt said when it comes to players he pays attention to in the NFL, J.J. Watt tops the list.

"J.J. Watt is definitely one of the biggest one," he said on Sunday. "He's a big dude. He can move really well. He can play every position in the defensive front. I like to look at him a lot. The entire New York Giants defensive line. They're talented. The 49ers as well, with Justin Smith and Aldon Smith."

Hunt is one of the more interesting prospects in this year's draft. His physical abilities are matched by the rarity of a player that has taken the country by storm despite never playing football until college. There are certainly things that he needs to work on to improve his game at the next level, as he's been able to rely on his freakish athletic ability to this point.

As the NFL has evolved, it has become a passing league. The teams that win Super Bowls are the teams that have quarterbacks that can throw the ball down the field. While this keeps teams on the hunt for the best defensive backs, players that are able to rush the passer and pressure them into making bad throws or bring them down in the backfield have become worth their weight in gold.

Hunt is one of the players that shows the natural ability to get to the quarterback, and that's without a ton of coaching. If a good coach can get his hands on Hunt, he can mold the talented defensive end into one of the league's most feared defensive players.

For those of you looking to travel to Eastern Europe, Hunt said that Estonia isn't a third-world country.

"It's a great country," Hunt said. "If you want to visit, go in July. We do have houses. It's not a third-world country. We do have roads. We do have electricity and Internet. It's a tiny country. It's a beautiful country."

Also, Hunt's last name literally translates to "Wolf" in Estonian. That's pretty cool.

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