|The Titans gave Justin Hunter a first-round grade after an evaluation process that included his performance at the NFL Combine. Click here for a slideshow of his workout and career with the Tennessee Volunteers.|
Titans fans and coaches hope the deep pass is the type of connection that occurs quite often in 2013.
“He said he can’t wait to start working with me,” Hunter said Saturday after arriving at Baptist Sports Park. “He probably thought I got all these text messages, so a phone call wasn’t really going to work.”
The Titans assigned a first-round grade on Hunter and thought he might be selected in the first round. When Hunter didn’t leave the board, Titans general manager Ruston Webster and the personnel department negotiated a trade Friday with San Francisco to move up six spots and select Hunter 34th overall with the second pick of the second round.
The selection of Hunter marked the third time in the past five drafts that the Titans have selected a receiver in the top 34 picks. Tennessee selected
“Kenny Britt’s a big receiver,” he said. “He has a little more weight than I do, and Kendall came from Baylor and was a great deep ball threat for them.”
Hunter is a native of Virginia Beach who played the past three seasons for the Vols. He set a school record for a freshman with seven touchdown catches and started his sophomore season on a torrid pace but suffered an ACL injury in the third game. He returned and had 73 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012.
Hunter said his friends and coaches helped him overcome the injury.
“I was a guy on the team that smiled a lot, so they really couldn’t see anything in me about being sad, so they just stayed on me,” Hunter said. “I’m definitely not taking anything for granted, just going out there working and appreciating what God gave me.”
Those physical attributes include fast legs, his 6-foot-4 frame and a 40-inch vertical, but he wants to add weight to his frame. Hunter said the heaviest he’s been is 200 pounds, and he’s targeting 210 pounds.
Hunter is the same height as Britt but about 20 pounds lighter. Britt also started 2011 with big numbers but suffered an ACL and MCL injury in his third game of the season. He worked hard to return in 2012, making 45 catches for 589 yards and four touchdowns. The Titans were encouraged by that progress and the fact that many receivers who return from knee surgery prosper more in their second season back.
“We’re going to talk about (our recovery process),” Hunter said. “He’s probably going to bring it up when he sees me, so we’re going to talk about it a lot.”
Titans coach Mike Munchak said this weekend that the Titans want to have Hunter on the field at multiple spots and in multiple roles.
“With a guy like this, you just want to get him on the field in different ways because there is stuff he can do with his speed that helps you win games,” Munchak said. “There are a lot of advantages to that and a lot more flexibility going into the season. There’s a lot of competition it will create in (the receivers) room where a lot of different guys could push the roster and push each other to get better. There’s a lot of excitement that way.”
Hunter was able to catch a direct flight to Nashville Saturday after celebrating Friday night by eating dinner with his family. He said it felt good to put on a Titans polo shirt and meet with the coaches.
|Click here for a slideshow of Justin Hunter's first day with the Titans.|
“I’m back in Tennessee again, so it feels like home,” Hunter said. “They told me they’re real excited for me to be here and bring another option to the receiver game. They love that I can go down field.”
Hunter has played once before at LP Field when Tennessee played North Carolina in the Music City Bowl after the 2010 season. He said he enjoyed his first experience in an NFL stadium and looks forward to making memories there in a new uniform.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since I was a young boy,” Hunter said. “I’m really excited to be here and ready to put on that jersey and start playing.”