Three hundred and ninety-five pounds rests on the barbell in front of Margus Hunt. It's by far the most weight any athlete has attempted at this practice test. Why would he go so high, knowing that at the Combine, athletes are measured by how many times they can bench 225?
For Hunt, perhaps the answer is "because he can." Amid a group of massive linemen and linebackers at IMG Academy, Hunt stands a head staller than the rest. It's a test day, and some athletes are visibly nervous. Hunt shares a laugh with his training partner and spotter, Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel, then lowers his back flat onto the bench and grips the bar
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Hunt pounds out five reps. Without missing a beat, he pulls himself up, lumbers over to a dumbbell rack and continues with his workout, busting out a set of Incline Dumbbell Rows.
Turns out, Hunt can do a lot of things most athletes only dream of. Born in Estonia, he was a powerful track & field phenom who won gold medals in the discus and shot put at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. In 2007, he moved to Dallas to enroll at SMU, where he could train under renowned throwing coach Dave Wollman.
But soon after he arrived, men's track was eliminated as a varsity sport, and Hunt needed to make a choice: change sports or go home. He says, "I was facing the situation of what to do next. Football was really intriguing. The coaches saw me in the weight room during my first year and always talked to me about trying out. There was this anticipation of whether I could play the game."
The anticipation was that a 6'8", 277-pound track & field world champion could wreak serious havoc on the football field. And it proved true. The massive Estonian was an impact player on special teams, blocking 17 field goal and extra point attempts—including an NCAA-record nine blocked field goals.
But it was Hunt's potential to rush the passer and blow up plays in the backfield that catapulted him into first-round consideration. At the Combine, the hulking Hunt recorded one of the fastest 40-Yard Dash times among defensive linemen, 4.6 seconds. That's the same time standout QB Geno Smith ran at the event.
"He's going to really terrorize quarterbacks," Seagrave says. "There are very few quarterbacks in this league who are going to be able to outrun him."
That fast 40 wasn't even Hunt's most impressive feat at the Combine. In the 225-pound Bench Test, he rifled off 38 reps—tops among all participants this year. On his approach to the game, Hunt says, "What I can bring is a sense of urgency. I love the physical aspect, being able to be violent on the line of scrimmage and dominate people."
If Hunt plays at a level anywhere near his physical capability, domination is his destiny.
Photo: Courtesy of IMG Academy
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