By Bob Lichtenfels
Posted Feb 23, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State fans have been accustomed to seeing Tony Hunt do a little bit of everything during his career at Happy Valley, but the rest of the college and professional football world are now beginning to see what is so special about him. Hunt is versatile and in the NFL world that makes you very coveted.
Tony Hunt checked in at 6-1.5 and 233 pounds, at the NFL Combine on Friday. He also announced that he will be represented by Virginia based agent Alvin Keels. The word around the league is that the running back pool is not very deep in this year’s draft. Hunt has become a valuable commodity because of his ability to run, block and catch.
“Going to Penn State, that's the kind of back they demand of you, we didn't really (protect) our tailbacks from pass blocking, we did a lot of receiving out of the backfield so we worked on everything,” Hunt said. “We were expected to be able to do everything. It wasn't like we had certain backs play certain situations. I played the whole game, so I had to be able to run the ball, catch the ball, block, protect the quarterback, I had to do everything.”
When Hunt arrived at Penn State the Nittany Lions featured a Pro-I offense, as his career progressed they began to run a lot of single back, spread formations. Hunt feels that the switch has also helped showcase his versatility.
“It was a big difference, but it was really hard to tell if one was better than the other because I saw where we really didn't have the talent to run that offense (the I-formation) to win games like we did the next year,” Hunt explained. “I think it would have been interesting to see what the offense would have done if we stayed with the Pro-I. ... but I think I like the spread a lot better.”
Hunt also felt that power backs such as himself are at a disadvantage in a combine format, but he has heard people doubt him in the past so he is not worried.
“I remember even in high school, you’d have kids come to the combine and look great. They go to college and put pads on and never do anything. My first few years at Penn State I kept hearing how I was going to have to share carries, but I put up the yards and did my thing. I wondered what more I had to do too prove myself. The media there always asked about the other guy, so that motivated me and put a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong.”
Hunt also spoke about his bowl game performance against Tennessee, where it was almost as though the Vols did not want to continue to tackle the bruising back.
“I think we did that a lot this year. Pound the ball out and get into the fourth quarter,” he said. “If we get a little lead and just run the ball, run the clock out, control the game. I think when you can do that, it shows you're just flat-out better than (the other) team, if you can just run the ball and dominate them like that. It's more making a statement than just running the ball. It's making a statement.”
The NFL has begun to really begin to show a preference to a two-back platoon system. Hunt thinks that is the best way to keep a back fresh.
“Running back is one of those positions that's so rough you have to have more than one back and backs go down ... Backs can get hurt on any play at any moment. So you have to have a capable back able to come in and play and I think it's better on the tailback as opposed to years ago where you had guys who came in right away and played, but they wouldn't really last too long. So I think it's a better system and I think it'll work out better for the running back and the teams.
Several members of the media asked Hunt what it was like to practice against All-Everything linebacker Paul Posluszny.
“It's a lot of fun, man. Knowing that you're running one-on-one pass routes, pass blocking and things like that against one of the top guys that that position, you know you're getting some work in,” Hunt explained. It's not like you're going to go out and see another linebacker and be overwhelmed because you've been practicing against guys who aren't as good as other guys. ... We've always had great defense and that's what's helped me out a lot in my career at Penn State that I practiced against the defense we had, a defense that was consistently the best defense I went against. That really prepares you for Saturday.”
Hunt is a very humble young man that doesn’t seem to get caught up in statistics. People were mentioning former Penn State greats John Cappelleti and Curt Warner and Hunt bypassing their names in the record books and Hunt admits that he wasn’t even aware of the record at the time it had happened.
“I kind of surprised me, it just happened,” he said. “I didn't really see it coming, it just happened. I don't know how many yards I have, I just heard people talking about it. It's just an honor to be mentioned in the same category with those guys.”
Hunt is ready for the testing to get underway in Indianapolis and by his own admittance he doesn’t expect to be among the fastest backs here, but Hunt thinks the forty-yard dash is slightly overvalued.
“I think it's a little over-rated, I don't know how much you can tell about a guy from watching him run a forty,” he explained. “There's no point in a football game where you're just going to come out of a start and run 40-yards straight… Some guys are just drill specialists. I've seen some guys in combines coming out of high school who look like All-Americans in drills but can't play football. So I think just watching somebody's football film is the best way to evaluate them because you're drafting a football player not a 40-yard dash runner. They talk about, 'Does he have the speed to go 80 yards,' and you look at the top backs in the (NFL) and their longest runs are 40 and 50 yards.”
Some prospects in the NFL Draft have ties to certain locations and dream of playing for particular teams. Hunt, who grew up in a military family has no ties to one specific area since he has moved around so much.
”I was born in San Antonio, but lived there for just a few years,” he said. “I grew up in a military family and lived in Hawaii and California, but mostly grew up in Alexandria, Va.”