The Long-Road For Margus Hunt And The New Mike Zimmer Project

USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Margus Hunt No. 53 overall during the 2013 NFL draft, adding to an impressive roster of athletic freaks already on the defensive line. But it wasn't until late that football interested Hunt.

Mike Zimmer loves athletic freaks. Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap easily apply with those descriptions. Both are at least 6-6 and weighing over 270 pounds. At the 2013 NFL National Combine, Cincinnati's newest defensive end Margus Hunt was listed at 6-8, 277 pounds with 38 repetitions on the bench press.

As we politely say, he's a freak.

"I'd hate to say he reminds me of Michael Johnson coming out, but Michael wasn't as productive coming out of college," Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told reporters Friday night.

It's not just his size that impresses. He ran a 4.6 40-yard during the NFL Combine in February.

Hunt, born in Karski-Nuia, Estonia, built an impressive list of achievements as a discus thrower and the shot punt, winning junior world championships in 2005 and 2006. Eventually he arrived at SMU to help rebuild the track and field program as a discus thrower. Unsuccessful, Hunt eventually gave football a shot and blocked seven kicks during his first year in college football -- one shy of the NCAA record. Yet the development took time for the man nicknamed "The Eastern Block".

"I felt so lost on the field,'' Hunt said of his first-ever practice at SMU. "I didn't know what to do. I remember we went through a walk-through for the defense and the coaches called out for the first team and I just ran out there. I wasn't on the first team; I was fourth-string or something. So I was kind of lost and enthusiastic."

"During my second year, that was the year I started every game. Coaches told me, 'We need you, so you have to know everything that we do.' I didn't have a problem knowing schemes or anything. I picked up the schemes as soon as I learned the language of the game. There was just being aggressive and playing for four quarters.''

It's believed that Hunt will develop as a Zimmer project, but that's not to suggest that Hunt won't be a productive player during his rookie season. Along with Dunlap, Johnson, Geno Atkins and even linebacker James Harrison, Hunt can provide an inside rush, simultaneously providing on-field development; especially on special teams. As Dunlap and Johnson enter contract seasons, with Johnson playing under the franchise tag, the Bengals will have a player to game-plan with a contingency to replace one after 2013... if it comes to that.

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