Great Estonian sporting moments: Margus Hunt, and the NFL

Margus Hunt during his time with the Bengals.
Margus Hunt during his time with the Bengals. Source: Margus Hunt/Instagram

To mark the centennial of the foundation of the Estonian olympic association, ERR's Sport portal has selected the 100 top Estonian sporting moments.

ERR News will pick a selection of these, starting with, not a moment so much as a person – Margus Hunt.

While he started his sporting career as a field athlete, more specifically in the shotput, the hammer throw and the discus; the latter an event already well familiar to Estonians thanks to the likes of 2008 olympic gold medalist Gert Kanter, it was across the Atlantic where Hunt made his mark most, playing for a decade in the NFL, the pinnacle of football, or as it is often known in Europe, American football.

Born in 1987 in Karksi-Nuia,  Viljandi County, Hunt being crowned junior discus world champion in 2006 seemed a fairly normal attainment for a big-armed South Estonian farm boy – not only Gerd Kanter but also 2004 olympic bronze medalist Aleksander Tammert had put independent Estonia on the map in this discipline, in competition with Lithuania's Virgilijus Alekna.

Hunt then went to study at college in the U.S., more specifically Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, and while he was due to continue in athletics, the institution's track and field program was cut.

However, Hunt felt drawn to gridiron, playing for the SMU Mustangs for four seasons as a defensive end (see clips below).

Even as it might have seen an unusual move back home in Estonia – even a quasi-sacrilegious abandonment of his field athletics roots – the Estonian was in April 2013 drafted by the team he has been most associated with, the Cincinnati Bengals, of the AFC North.

While not quite the first Estonian to ply their trade in the NFL, Hunt has been the first Estonian-raised player to make it so far; former Tennessee Titans offensive linesman Michael Roos is Estonian-born, but emigrated to the U.S. at an early age. Estonian-American Chuck Ehin played as a defensive linesman for the San Diego Chargers (as they were then) in the 1980s, while Estonia was still under Soviet occupation.

The Bengals had finished the preceding season by making it to the playoffs as a wild card, but with Hunt in the defensive line they went on to top their division over the next three seasons.

A move to the Indianapolis Colts saw one more playoff appearance in 2019 for Hunt, while he finished out his career mostly as a free agent, with the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears, as well as a brief return to Cincinnati in 2020 and a pre-season stint with the Arizona Cardinals the following year.

ERR's Sport portal notes that Margus Hunt smashed opposing offense players and Estonian sporting traditions in his career, teaching us all that we live in changing times where all have their opportunity to leave their mark.

A short video below from ERR Sport showcases some of the highlights from Hunt's career.

December 8 this year is the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Estonian olympic movement. The first summer games Estonia competed in as an independent nation were those held in Paris in 1924.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: ERR Sport

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