Tony Hunt gets chance at new spot

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - September 3, 2008

The Philadelphia Eagles moved Hunt to fullback midway through the preseason, giving the second-year pro a better chance of making the roster. Hunt showed the coaching staff enough potential in a couple weeks to earn the starting job.

It's not exactly what Hunt envisioned he'd be doing in the NFL when he was a featured tailback at Penn State, but it beats landing on the waiver wire.

"I'm ready to go out and make the best of the situation," he said. "It's a great chance to get on the field. I feel good at the position. I'm a fast learner. Being able to play it for a little while, I've got the playbook down."

Hunt finished his college career as Penn State's leader in rushing attempts (654) and was second in yards rushing (3,320). He was drafted in the third round (90th overall) last year, but spent most of his rookie year on the bench or watching in street clothes.

Hunt only played in eight games for an 8-8 team. He carried just 10 times for 16 yards, though he scored a touchdown in his first game in Week 3.

When the Eagles acquired running back Lorenzo Booker from Miami in a draft-day trade this year, Hunt dropped to fourth on the depth chart. His chances of making the team were in jeopardy in mid-August, despite a 51-yard TD run against Carolina in the second preseason game.

The coaching staff then decided to try Hunt at fullback, and he outplayed Jed Collins and Jason Davis. It also helped that Hunt performed well on special teams.

"A lot of emphasis is put on special teams, so that's a great opportunity for anybody to get on the field," Hunt said. "One thing I know is that special teams is major and I feel I improved on that. I really took special team serious because that's a way to help the team."

For a guy who was a star offensive player in college, being called upon to make tackles on special teams can be challenging.

"It's not really hard, but if it's something you've never done," Hunt said without completing his thought. "At the end of the day, it's still football. It's running, blocking, being physical and wanting do it. After going out and doing it, I got the hang of it."

In the Eagles' version of the West Coast offense, the fullback doesn't play a prominent role. Hunt's primary responsibility will be to protect Donovan McNabb in passing situations. Missing a blitz pickup could be very costly. He also has to block for All-Pro Brian Westbrook or whoever is running the ball.

The Eagles seldom throw to their fullback and hardly hand it off. Thomas Tapeh had eight receptions and five carries last year. But Hunt gives the team a new dimension, so offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has more options. Hunt ran for first downs on third-and-1 and third-and-2 in the same drive against New England in his first game at his new spot.

"People say the fullback doesn't get the ball, but a lot of the fullbacks haven't really been ballcarriers, so I'm sure that plays a part in it," Hunt said. "I know if I get the ball on third-and-short, I feel I can convert."

The 6-foot-1, 229-pound Hunt was a bruising runner at Penn State, where he became only the fifth player to rush for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and the fifth to rush for more than 3,000 career yards. He may be undersized to play fullback in the NFL, but doesn't plan on trying to pack on pounds now.

Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.