Vols in the Pros: Justin Hunter

Justin Hunter had an exceptional career at Tennessee. Can he continue that success in the pros?

During Sunday’s Titans-Buccaneers matchup, most football fans around the country will be locked into the quarterback battle between former Heisman winners Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston.

While paying attention to this back-and-forth, however, Vol fans will still look to former Tennessee standout receiver Justin Hunter to play a precise role in the Titans’ offense.

Hunter has posed a consistent deep threat for the Titans. He caught only two of nine passes thrown his way this preseason after missing practice due to off-field incidents. But head coach Ken Whisenhunt stated that No. 15 is “trending upward,” a movement that will need to be continued this weekend if Hunter wants to help Mariota’s completion rate against Winston, a former Florida State quarterback.

Photo Courtesy of Casey Fleser
Photo Courtesy of Casey Fleser

This offseason, Hunter was involved in a beach bar brawl that, per a report from TMZ Sports, resulted in a victim’s broken bones and additional injuries. However, after being reviewed by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Hunter’s charges were reduced to a misdemeanor.

When Hunter was first drafted in April 2013, character issues were said to be what dropped the Vols’ playmaker to the second round. This incident certainly didn’t help matters, as Hunter tries to develop a better off-the-field record this season. He is now surrounded by competitive talent on the outside, with former Missouri star Dorial Green-Beckham leading the pack in an attempt to steal Hunter’s role in the Titans’ offense.

While in Knoxville, Hunter compiled a high list of honors. He made himself known early on, averaging a team-high 25.9 yards per catch and earning coaches’ All-SEC honors his freshman season. Despite the success, most remember the cringe-worthy ACL tear Hunter suffered against Florida in 2011, a setback that put him out for the year.

In 2012, his third and final season with the Vols, Hunter started all 12 games and surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in receiving yards with 1,083. His total of 73 catches was the second-highest in school history for a single season. After the season, he was named second team All-SEC and drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Titans.

Hunter had a strong rookie start but after struggling a bit in the preseason, he will look to regain the momentum in the 2015 regular season. For Hunter, it all starts Sunday when the Titans take on Tampa Bay.

Edited by Cody McClure