ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When
But in the weeks since, the former defensive lineman has quickly established himself in the team's linebacking corps. Hunter has started four of Denver's first five games, notching 22 tackles -- tied for fourth-best on the squad. In Sunday's loss at Baltimore, the fifth-year linebacker registered his first sack as a Bronco, taking down Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for a 14-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the Broncos 1-yard line.
With a matchup against the AFC East-leading New York Jets coming Sunday, Hunter sat down with DenverBroncos.com to discuss his transition to linebacker and adjustment to a new team and city.
Was it nice to get your first sack as a Bronco?
"It definitely feels good to get your first sack. I didn't know when it was going to come, but I just kept telling myself, 'Keep rushing, be patient. It's going to come.' It finally came at a big time last week. I'm definitely thankful and grateful for that. I'm just trying to keep working hard, and hopefully I can accumulate some more."
How is the transition from defensive lineman to linebacker going?
"I still say I'm a work in progress. I'm definitely my worst critic. I'm always hard on myself. I definitely feel like there's a lot of things I can do better. The things that I have shown I can do well, I want to keep building upon those, but I'm more focused on the things that I can correct. I'm trying to be a complete overall player, so I can be productive and help this defense out.
What's the best piece of advice someone has given you about making the switch?
"Just being patient and staying focused and staying in your playbook -- just studying. That's one thing, and then when you go out to practice, you've got to execute. The saying is, 'You practice how you play.' If you go out there and you practice good habits, you should have those same habits on gameday."
How do you like working with Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale?
"Man, I love Wink. Wink is definitely a great coordinator. He has us well-prepared. I appreciate the opportunity that he gave me and the way he's embraced me since I've been here. I'm definitely thankful for that. I just want to continue to learn -- work hard so I can have success for his defense and the rest of the team."
What's the biggest challenge on your end playing a team as balanced as the Jets?
"The biggest challenge is just focusing on the gameplan. The coaches prepare for all that. They see all that, so they'll put us in the best position to make plays. It's definitely for us just to execute and do what we're asked to do."
With some of the injuries on the defense, what is the key to keep progressing as a unit this week?
"It's just about guys stepping up. Guys who are asked to different things and have a bigger role will have to answer the bell. That's what the NFL is about. If somebody goes down, somebody else will have to step up and fill those shoes. I think we've got guys who are excited and chomping at the bit to get out there and execute. I know if I was one of those guys, I'd definitely be excited to finally get out there on the field. If you're an NFL player, you want to play. For some guys, this is their opportunity, so let's go play."
Now that you've been here a little bit, what do you feel like your role is on this defense?
"I think it's just doing what I'm asked to do -- doing my job, whatever my job is. I'm asked to do different things, so I think my role right now is just doing my job and doing it well to help this defense out."
As an undrafted player out of Appalachian State, what do you think was the key to making it to your fifth year in the league?
"I think it's just doing what the coaches ask you to do. It's being able to do multiple things as far as special teams. And when you're asked to play defense, just go out there and execute well every single play to stay on the field."
What's your favorite football memory?
"Actually, I've got two. The first one was when I was playing soccer -- I wasn't even playing football. When I was 5 years old, I saw the guys across the street playing tackle football with pads, and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I declared right there that was what I wanted to do. And my second one was winning the (2005 Division-1 FCS) National Championship in college. My last year and we finally won, so I could say all my years of college didn't go in vain. I conquered something that I could cherish for the rest of my life."
People out here might not know much about Appalachian State. Give me your recruiting pitch. What's so great about Appalachian State?
"Basically, if you come to Appalachian State, you're going to be a part of a dominant program that wins consistently each Saturday. You're going to be around a great football atmosphere, great facility. You're going to be around a great fan base, and you're just going to have an exciting time at Appalachian."
Have you had a chance to explore Denver at all?
"Not really. I've been pretty much here and there. I've been pretty much just going from work to home, going to Walmart and stuff like that. I definitely haven't had a chance to go out like that, but maybe in the offseason I'll get a chance to see a little bit more."
What do you want Broncos fans to know about you?
"I just want them to get to know me. I'm a cool, laidback type of guy. I like to play aggressive on the field, but off the field, I'm pretty much chill and laid back. Deep down I'm goofy at heart. I'm carefree and like to have a good time. I'm not all serious all the time. I'm playful and like to have a good time."
Is it tough balancing your football and off-the-field mentalities?
"Yeah, you definitely have to be able to balance the two. You need to know when to turn that light switch on and off. On the field, it's definitely about aggression, fierceness and dominance. Off the field, it's being carefree, laidback, enjoying the atmosphere, having fun with your teammates and just enjoying the ride."