Omar Hunter came to the University of Florida as a 5 star recruit out of Buford, Georgia. He was considered a “can’t miss” prospect and Urban Meyer proclaimed him to be the “Tim Tebow” of his class.
When he got to campus, however, he was far from it. Out of shape and overweight, he had a bad work ethic and poor practice habits. His freshman year he battled injuries that sidelined him most of the year.
Gator fans wondered aloud on message boards and in chat rooms where this “Baby Sapp”, as some referred to him, was at. He came to Florida with an entitled attitude. A big strong kid by nature football always came easy to him. He was almost always bigger, stronger, and more talented than the guys he played against. That is, until he got to Florida.
Playing major college football, especially in the SEC, you’re going up against guys as good or better than you. As big or bigger than you. As strong or stronger than you. Here, if you want to succeed, you have to work for it, in the weight room and in practice. That was a lesson Hunter was going to have to learn the hard way.
“Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t prepare myself the right way on the field or off the field,” Hunter admitted. “I guess coming in thinking that everything was going to be handed to me and not thinking I’m gonna have to work. Just being young and dumb, and seeing when I got here it was a different ball game.”
After a tough season, dealing with injuries and watching other people play the game, Omar started to get it. He realized if he wanted to play he was going to have to get in shape and work hard in practice on fundamentals and technique.
Reminiscing on the transition from his freshman year to now as he approaches his final game in the Swamp, Hunter said,
“I”m much more mature now, when I first came in I wasn’t that mature, I thought everything was going to be handed to me. I seen I had to work for things and I’m more and more mature as a person and as a football player.”
He came in the next season 30 pounds lighter and more determined than ever as he began his journey to becoming the solid player he is today. What he is is a space-eating defensive tackle that is strong in the run game and can hold his man in the pass game as well as get after the quarterback.
He was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after the Kentucky game this season in which he had a career high eight tackles. In that game he was instrumental in holding the potent Kentucky passing game to 60 passing yards and limiting them to 4-14 on third down as they kept a consistent pass rush on the Kentucky quarterback.
His biggest contribution is the consistency that he brings to the defensive line. He doesn’t have a big stat line, but neither do opponent offenses in the interior of the Gators defense.
“He’s really playing his best football since he’s been here,” Muschamp said earlier in the season. “A lot of that goes to our off-season program. He accepted the challenges in front of him and he certainly has capitalized.”
As his career in Gainesville winds down Hunter looked back on his time and talked about the growth in maturity that has taken place which includes working hard in the classroom. He mentioned that when he arrived in Gainesville, he took for granted that he would simply play well for a few years and then move on to the NFL. He realizes now that making it in the NFL is difficult and not guaranteed so getting his degree is the smart thing to do.
“I realized my degree was something I had to get, Hunter said. “It’s very important to me and I’m definitely going to achieve my goal of getting it.”
Approaching Senior Day, Hunter knows the ride’s almost over. He intends to savor his last game Saturday in the Swamp.
“It’s going to be fun,” Hunter remarked. “I remember getting here as a freshman all the excitement I had, my first game playing. I think it’s going to top that on Saturday my last game in the Swamp I’m definitely going to enjoy it. It’s definitely going to be emotional.”
So with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter of his Gators career, Hunter realizes he has to play all 60 minutes as this team attempts to go 7-0 in the Swamp for only the third time in school history. Follow that up with his last game against his childhood favorite Florida State and the Gators have a great opportunity to play in a BCS game for the first time since 2009. For a guy that came in with a bang it’s only fitting he go out with one as well.