Section: Features

Wide receiver snags NFL opportunity after years of training

For most of the 15 seniors on the Lords football team, their loss to Denison on November 12 marked the last time they would ever play organized football. The same is true of most of the 73,660 NCAA football players — a mere 1.9 percent receive opportunities to continue their careers on the professional level. This percentage is far lower for Division III, making the opportunity Brian Hunca ’17 received this past weekend even more exceptional.

Late Saturday night, Hunca received a call from the Washington Redskins organization inviting him to their rookie minicamp. Minicamps are held by NFL teams for one week in the spring.  Drafted and undrafted rookies that are signed by the team attend these minicamps. This invitation represents an opportunity for Hunca to practice with and try out for the Redskins. If he gives an impressive performance, he could be signed to play professional football. 

As the lone Division III player to compete at the Redskins minicamp, Hunca faces an uphill battle, Luckily he knows how to overcome such low odds. Hunca came to Kenyon as a somehwhat undersized wide receiver. Despite this, Hunca devoted himself to football and improving for the good of the team.

Although Hunca was not comfortable commenting on his own success, his teammates were more than willing to speak up for him.  “Brian is the teammate everyone wants to have,” quarterback Thomas Merkle ’20 said. “Someone who’s always positive and always bettering himself and his teammates.”

According to his teammates, Hunca was working to improve himself to help his team succeed, without thoughts for his career down the line. “Brian created this opportunity for himself by transforming his body from a 160-pound, decently athletic high school athlete to arguably the best WR in DIII football,” Head Coach Christopher Monfiletto said. “He worked extremely hard to get to this point, but the ironic thing is that over the course of the past four years he dedicated the majority of his time helping his teammates. He spent a whole summer with Jake Bates [former Kenyon quarterback] while Jake was working an internship and waited for him to get off work every day so that Jake would have someone to throw to before his senior year.”

By his junior year, Hunca’s work ethic and devotion to his team began to pay off. With Bates as his quarterback in 2015, Hunca became Kenyon’s primary receiver, pulling in 66 receptions for 1,096 yards. 

The NFL enlists the services of professional recruitment firms to find prospective players to fill their rosters. When these firms got ahold of Hunca’s junior year highlights, they sent  scouts for the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts to watch him play in Gambier. These scouts observed an offseason football practice, and then recorded official numbers for the primary recruitment statistics—height, weight and 40-yard dash time.  These numbers did not speak as loudly to recruiters, though, as the impact Hunca had on the football team’s offense the next fall. 

His senior year, Hunca led the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) in pass receptions and yards, catching 99 for 1,283 yards. This feat broke the Kenyon record for single-season receptions that had previously stood for 27 years. Hunca nearly topped the record list in career receptions and yards as well. The only person who has surpassed his 241 career receptions for 3,294 yards was Chris Myers ’71.  Myers signed with the Giants, becoming the only Kenyon graduate to sign with an NFL team.   

With such an impressive season under his belt, Hunca received scouting looks from the Patriots and Redskins. Although Hunca was not invited to the NFL combine, he continued to work and improve with a professional career in his sights. He joined the Kenyon Track and Field Team in order to improve his speed in preparation for upcoming combines. He participated in the Regional Combine held in Washington, D.C. and was invited for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. At the tryout, Hunca was able to shave his 40 time down to 4.53 seconds. More impressive, though, was Hunca’s 20-yard-shuttle time of 4.08 seconds. Had Hunca competed at the NFL combine, his shuttle time would tie for the fifth fastest wide receiver time, and 10th overall. These times, a culmination of Hunca’s focus, effort, and improvement, likely led to the try-out invitation he recently received.

If Hunca makes it onto the Redskins, he will become only the second player in Kenyon history to play in the NFL.


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