Cincinnati Bengals: Tracing Margus Hunt's Journey from Estonia to Cincinnati
Born on July 14, 1987, Hunt grew up in the small Estonian town of Karksi-Nuia. Due to the isolated environment, Hunt took up athletics to pass the time.
He had very natural athletic ability and began to compete in the decathlon. Hunt decided that he was best suited for throwing events, so he concentrated solely on discus, shot put and the hammer throw.
After training in these events, Hunt began to compete at the highest level in 2003—the World Youth Championships. He placed eighth in the hammer throw in his first tournament.
In 2005 and 2006, Hunt progressed significantly in the discus throw and shot put. He won his first gold medal in discus at the European Junior World Championships. One year later during the World Junior Championships, Hunt won his next gold medal in discus in addition to setting a new junior world record in the event. He won the shot put title only three days later.
However, this amount of stardom weighed heavily on Hunt. This was one of the reasons that played a part in his decision to leave for America. Hunt explained briefly in an interview on Bengals.com.
That was a problem. When you come from a country that has 1.3 million people and do something like that, there’s huge pressure on your shoulders to win the Olympics in two years. I had to get out.
Luckily for Hunt, he had plenty of experience speaking English already. He explained how he learned the language during the interview.
I watched a lot of Friends when I was back in Estonia and whatever American movies came out. In France, Germany and Italy, they have TV shows dubbed over, but we had subtitles so I was able to learn English fairly quickly through that.
Hunt then left Estonia in 2007 to join track and field coach Dave Wollman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately for Hunt, SMU dropped their men's track and field program by the time he enrolled full time.
Wollman saw Hunt's size and athleticism as great advantages for the Estonian native and decided to use his abilities in attempt to gain an athletic scholarship for football.
After Hunt ran a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash, head coach June Jones offered him a scholarship. Hunt became well known while playing for the Mustangs because of his ability to block kicks. He blocked seven kicks during his first year at SMU—one short of the NCAA record. He blocked a total of 17 during his collegiate career.
In 2012, Hunt found himself on the top of Bruce Feldman's "Freak List" of the 10 college football players he considered the most freakish athletes (via CBSSports.com).
At the NFL combine, Hunt managed one of the most impressive workouts at the event. He was able to bench 225 pounds a total of 38 times despite his 82" wingspan. Accompany that with his 34.5-inch vertical jump and 4.6 40-yard dash and you get a top performer at the defensive end position.
On April 26, 2013, the Bengals completed Hunt's journey from Estonia to Cincinnati by selecting him with the 53rd overall pick in the NFL draft.
Shortly after his selection, Hunt was interviewed at a press conference and asked how he initially reacted.
"It was awesome," he said. "They have a great defensive line coach. I met him at Pro Day and we really hit it off, and I’m proud to be a Bengal now."
Hunt not only has a great defensive line coach in Jay Hayes, but a fantastic defensive coordinator in Mike Zimmer. Zimmer had this to say about Hunt in the press conference.
Well, he was actually playing two-gap on the offensive tackle most of the time, and he’ll be playing defensive end for us. Like Marvin said, he’s got tremendous, tremendous athletic ability. I hate to say, but he reminds me of Michael Johnson when he came out. Michael Johnson wasn’t as productive at Georgia Tech as he is now, and he had great measurables also, but maybe not as good as Margus does. When you meet him and talk to him, he’s a first class person. He’s a guy we’ll like to have here as a Bengal. He’s a good man. His story is unbelievable, so you’ll be able to write some great stories about it and hopefully we can get him to be a great player.
This past Wednesday, the Bengals announced that they signed Hunt to a four-year deal worth $3.67 million, including a more than $1 million signing bonus.
Hunt has accomplished all of this by the age of 25. Not bad for a kid who grew up in a small town in southern Estonia.
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