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2011 NFL Combine: The Zen of Kendall Hunter

Can RB Kendall Hunter enlighten the St. Louis Rams?
Can RB Kendall Hunter enlighten the St. Louis Rams?

I don't know what the NFL was thinking, but they sent out a four of the most intriguing mid-round running back prospects at in a short window, sending dogged reporters like yours truly from table to podium with no room for the some of the small time questions others thought it would be important for prospects to answer. 

Seriously, if I hear one more person ask a player whether or not they watched "Hard Knocks" my rage might be enough to leave a smoldering hole in the middle of downtown Indianapolis. 

The point is that within a short window of time, I sat down with Jacquizz Rodgers, Taiwan Jones, Derrick Locke, Shane Vereen and Kendall Hunter. It was scatback-erific. Each of these running backs is from a similar mold of smaller profile, speedsters that teams like the St. Louis Rams are hoping can become the next Jamaal Charles, or at least Darren Sproles. 

I've got a ton of download on all of those players after somehow managing to take in the brunt of each interview. But I want to start with Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State. 

Hunter took the podium with a knowing smile, the kind of smile the Buddha has. Not cocky or condescending, just sure of himself. Americans tend to like their millionaires humble, but I'd much rather have a self-assured running back than a humble one. For a few moments, I had Hunter to myself. Shaking off the confusion projected by that cognizant smile, I asked the most Combine appropriate question I could muster.

"What kind of 40 time do you expect?"

"You have to wait and see."

"Going to surprise us?"

"Yes sir."

From there, he rattled off his size, 5'7" 199 lbs, and offered some perspective on it.

"It doesn't matter what size you are, if you can play, you can play."

Dispensing noble truths as though the spotlights were just another Bodhi tree. Hunter then got into the specifics of why his size was an advantage for him. 

"You can run under people, set up your blocks, because the linebackers really can't see you all the time. You can just be patient and cut off the block." 

Patience? Seeing and being seen? Om mani padme hum. Remembering the zen of objectivity, I shook it off and asked about blocking, seeing as though that's a key ingredient for what the Rams would need in a running back working third downs, options, etc. Hunter's Buddhism went got a little more marshall at that point, delightfully so. 

"If you can't block, you ain't playing. Even though I didn't end up blocking that much, but at practice, you be blocking all the time. You go against linebackers almost every other day."

One comment about Hunter that emerged in after the Senior Bowl was that he was a willing, eager blocker. That much was evident in his comments, so much so that you got the impression he relished a powerful block as much as breaking outside the tackle for a 35-yard run. 

Finally, he returned to dispensing the simple truths that every running back in today's NFL should know. Asked about his ability as a pass catcher, he stated simply, "you have to know how to catch the ball if you want to play." 

Hunter had no doubts about his ability, something he made clear dropping wisdom on all those who would listen. The tape already argues that he might be one of the best scatback, complementary type running backs available in the draft. His state of (football) consciousness only furthered that argument.