– There are three elite receiver prospects hailing from the University of Tennessee (or at least three that spent time there) at this year’s NFL combine. It seems that Cordarrelle Patterson is the top prospect out of the group but it wasn’t so long ago that Justin Hunter was considered the best at the position.
– A difficult leg injury, the emergence of Patterson and the departure of Da’Rick Rodgers made life more difficult for Hunter in 2012 and his previously lofty stock seems to have dropped.
– But Hunter believes he can still be the best receiver to come from this draft and he’s here in Indy to show that he can be more than just a deep threat who can run in the 4.4 range.
– Hunter offered his thoughts on bouncing back from the leg injury, working out for teams here and the competition among the receivers for the top wideout spot in this draft.
How’s the leg?
“I feel perfect about my leg. I haven’t even hurt my leg, really. I know it’s stronger now. I can run faster, I’m jumping higher.”
What do you think of this weekend, especially if you do really well?
“I think it will boost my draft stock, definitely. I’m going to go out there and work my hardest, try to beat everybody in every event. We’re going to see where it takes me.”
Is there a time you’re looking to run in the 40?
“Anything in the 4.3s, at least. If I get a 4.2, I’ll be happy.”
Decision to leave UT early?
“My decision to leave UT was real easy. I just had a son; he’s eight months now. I definitely thought about my life and everything. As soon as I hurt my leg, the opportunity presented itself to go into the NFL. So I took that. I didn’t want to be one of those players coming back, hurting himself.”
How has Tennessee helped for the next level?
“It’s helped me a lot. We’ve got a lot of good coaches. They coached me up pretty good.”
What learned during time off with ACL rehab?
“I learned that sitting on the sideline definitely sucks, and to never take anything granted. Just go out there and work your hardest. Compete every day.”
On Adrian Peterson’s comeback
“That was incredible. I think they said his (rehabbed) leg was stronger than the other one? Then he ran for over 2,000 yards? He’s the man for that.”
Why talented receivers congregate at Tennessee?
“It was labeled ‘Receiver U.’ We had a good coach. Charlie Baggett came there and recruited us tough. We bought into what he was talking about, and we had great success with him.”
3 Tennessee receivers at combine…
“It’s crazy. I wish we all were at school at the same time. It could have been so much success there on the offense, with three guys like that.”
All 3 trying to impress in Indy…
“It’s exciting. I love to see them here with me. We’re all going to go out and compete on Saturday. I’m really excited to see what they do.”
“I’ve put on 16 pounds since I’ve been there, and all my numbers have improved. So me and the weigh gain, good job.”
Speed intact with weight gain?
“I definitely got faster in my times and everything. So I think it helped.”
With size and speed intact, what else to prove to NFL teams at combine?
“I definitely need to prove that I can be an NFL player and I can outwork anybody out here.”
Does healthy competition at UT with CP (Cordarrelle) carry over to the draft?
“Not really. We definitely have made a bet about whose going to run the fastest time. I definitely made a bet with Da’Rick about whose going jump the highest. So I’ve got a lot on my plate to prove.”
On winning the bet…
“I just know I’m going to beat both of them, and they’re going to have to respect me then.”
What’s at stake?
“Uh, we haven’t talked about that yet. But after we make the NFL, we’ll think about something.”
Why you’re the best receiver in draft?
“I can go out there and make large catches. I’m a deep-ball threat. Just dedication.”
What about consistency?
“I know I had a problem with that, and that’s one of the tough things. I know that’s real important. You’ve got to be able to make that catch every time.”
Virginia Beach, fertile ground.
“Definitely, there’s a lot of talent in VB, so we compete a lot. Just to see Percy Harvin and Allen Iverson and all them guys come out, and we just want to be like them.”
“No. I’ve talked to Plaxico Burress a few times and everything, stayed real close with him.”
“He just said, ‘The NFL’s fast. You’ve got to work hard.’ ….
Besides Plax, another WR you’d compare yourself to?
“I love Randy Moss. He’s a deep-ball threat, just like myself. One of the greatest out there. So I look up to him.”
Growing up, people talk about your graceful running style?
“My coach actually said I run like a gazelle. He said that all through high school, because I’m a long-strider and a real skinny guy.”
Approach to combine?
“It’s one of the most important business trips of my life. So I’ve got to make it work.”
Anything specific, need to show NFL scouts?
“I think I just need to show that I can have great focus and be consistent.”
Response to people who say you’re just a deep threat?
“I don’t want to be just that. I want to be more than that. I want to be a complete receiver, so I can run short routes, take the big hit when I need to, going across the middle. I just want to be the best receiver.”
Fastest 40 time ever?
“I clocked in at a 4.35.”
How much have you been asked about the knee?
“A lot. Went into the meetings today, and they tugged on my knee a lot. And everybody said the same thing: They said it’s great.”
– Like many of the other wideouts, Hunter seems to be in a cluster of the top receivers and has a chance to gain some steam heading toward the draft. The Rams need help at the position but Hunter seems to be more of a deep threat cut from the cloth of Chris Givens. They could always use more speed so Hunter could be a factor in the second round but it’s logical they might be in the market for a more diverse route runner.
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