Danielle Hunter always used to dread the first day of school.
“When I was growing up, every grade they’d call roll,” the LSU defensive end recalled. “They’d go down the list and say it (Dan-yell) and I’d have to say, ‘It’s Da-neal.’ ”
Please remember that. Because chances are you are certainly going to remember the player after this, his junior year at defensive end at LSU. You’ll want to get his name right for your fantasy football draft one day.
The parallels between Hunter and former Tigers defensive end Barkevious “KeKe” Mingo are striking.
Both have first names that have launched a thousand mispronunciations. Both, though you’d have to take the helmets off and get to know them, are affable and engaging young men. Both are exceptionally gifted people from an athletic standpoint.
At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Mingo (now with the Cleveland Browns) seemed to set the mold of statuesque defensive end. Hunter somehow looks like he took that mold, polished it to a high gloss and added a couple of floors.
The first thing you notice about Hunter (6-6, 241) are the veins lacing his chiseled arms. He looks like he just stepped out of the pages of a Marvel comic book. Seriously, I’m starting to wonder if I missed telltale signs late one night that Les Miles and defensive coordinator John Chavis were building Hunter in a secret lab somewhere in the LSU football complex. (“He’s alive!”)
“If we did, we would have cloned him and would have five or six like him,” Chavis said with his deadpan drawl and bristling moustache.
“I’m Jamaican,” explained Hunter, who moved to the United States 12 years ago and grew up in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston, where he and the Tigers open the season two weeks from Saturday against Wisconsin. “Growing up Jamaican, there are a lot of people who look like this, like Usain Bolt.”
And maybe Yohan Blake. And … that’s it. Of course, Blake’s about 6 feet tall and Bolt is more in Hunter’s stratosphere at 6-5.
Hunter said he’s never been back to his native island.
“One day, I plan on going on vacation there,” Hunter said. Perhaps after he signs his first NFL contract, he will get to visit his Jamaican vacation villa overlooking the Caribbean.
Hunter said he has four percent body fat. Four percent. I’ve got four percent body fat in my earlobes.
Freshman teammate Davon Godchaux said Hunter is exaggerating — but not in the way most of us talk about our weight.
“I actually think he’s lying,” Godchaux said. “I think he’s got two percent body fat. He’s unreal, a freakish guy. He’s going to be on someone’s NFL roster one day, and they’re going to be blessed to have him.”
Hunter said LSU’s game with Wisconsin will be his first time ever to set foot in NRG Stadium, which the rest of the season will be home to the Houston Texans.
Chances are quite good it won’t be the last, and I’m not talking about LSU having to settle for a return trip to the Texas Bowl.
The freakish physique already built, all that may stand between Hunter and some fat, as in a fat rookie NFL contract next year, is a great junior campaign.
Hunter had a strong sophomore campaign. He played in all 13 of LSU’s games, starting 10, recording 57 tackles, making him the Tigers’ third-leading returning tackler behind only middle linebacker D.J. Welter (80 tackles) and safety Jalen Mills (67). Hunter had eight tackles for loss among his 57 stops with three quarterback sacks, along with five quarterback hurries, two pass deflections and a forced fumble. The whole season was a learning experience, Hunter said, setting him up for even better things in 2014.
“The best tackles I faced last year were Greg Robinson (Auburn), Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama) and Jake Matthews” of Texas A&M, Hunter said. “I learned a lot from those three. They came off more aggressive than the other tackles, make you focus on hand placements and more quick-twitch muscles.”
I think Hunter’s quick-twitch muscles have quick-twitch muscles.
“He’s a talented guy who’s big, who can run and is being coached by one of the best in the business,” Chavis said, a reference to LSU D-line coach Brick Haley. “We’re really excited. He’s a great young man.
“You see the tangibles. But he’s got all the intangibles. It’s all there. He’s the full package.”
Hunter is humble when you ask him about comparisons to Mingo, saying he can’t put himself in that category.
Yet. Maybe one day Mingo, seemingly the standard for LSU defensive ends, will be the one compared to Hunter.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.