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Collins, Hunt work to impress NFL today

The distance between Miami and Hattiesburg is a lot farther than Meadville and Quentin, but for two local young men from the small Franklin County towns the miles won’t matter today when the NFL sends its cast of decision makers to grade them and their pro football ambitions.

Jamie Collins and Jordan Hunt, teammates, friends, and NFL prospects who grew up just mere minutes apart, are working out today at their respective colleges for Pro Scouting Day.

Collins, a Southern Miss standout, is basically assured of a NFL Draft spot next month while Hunt is trying to earn just a head-turn at Florida International’s Pro Day.

Both play linebacker, one inside (Hunt) and the other outside (Collins). It’s a position scouts grade hard and teams always have a need for.

“I’m going to be rooting for him, and I know he’ll be rooting for me,” said Collins. “We’ve been friends and teammates for so long, that we know the other will do good no matter what or where.”

The duo share a lot of similarities. Both have the same work ethic and dedication to the sport they love, the same intensity on the field, and the same goals to make it to the NFL.

They even share the same agent company (Bus Cook Sports), which isn’t surprising because both stay in touch with the other about anything and everything in the sports world.

“After high school we both went different places but we always stayed in contact,” added Hunt. “We’re both competitive. We’ve always been that way growing up. If one did something big, the other tried to do something bigger.”

Following their graduation from Franklin County High as esteemed members of the Class of 2009, Collins took his talents to USM while Hunt took his to Co-Lin and later FIU.

“They are two hard working, super talented young men that I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach” said Grady McCluskey, who coached the pair from 7th grade to their junior season at FCHS.

McCluskey watched both grow and develop, in a rural country setting and become starters as sophomores on his varsity club.

Collins and Hunt shared some of their best memories on the field. Each have celebrated together and both have cried together along the way, winning a state championship at Franklin High in 2006, losing in the finals in 2007 and South State finals in 2008.

“Jamie’s a freak of nature. Jordan’s a blue collar, hard worker,” added McCluskey. “Both can just flat out play.”

Over the span of three years, the pair only lost four games at FCHS when both were in the starting lineup at the same time. When football season ended, they starred on the basketball court, too.

“Both Jamie and Jordan quickly adjusted from football to basketball,” admitted Bulldogs head basketball coach Chris Jordan. “That goes to show you just how talented them two are. They were really fun to coach.”

Last week’s NFL Combine featured three amazing jumps by Jamie Collins. His combine broad jump record of 11.7, his linebacker vertical jump record of 41.5 inches, made his NFL Draft stock jump in a 48-hour period from mid, third round to its current status as a mid, first round to early second round projection.

The jump up the boards was indeed lofty. Both ESPN NFL Draft experts Todd Mcshay and Mel Kiper Jr. have Collins penciled in as a high rising overall prospect, while Mike Mayock of the NFL Network rates him the second best outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive alignment.

“I’m just training and working hard every day,” said Collins. “I don’t really pay attention to all that draft talk. That stuff will all play out in the end.”

The USM Pro Day will be held at Petal High School, not at Southern Miss. Shards of glass from debris caused by last month’s tornado that hit the Hattiesburg area is still sprinkled on the field of M.M. Roberts Stadium.

Jordan Hunt has been training hard as he prepares for his shot to impress. He knows that he’ll have to show out Friday.

“I’m ready,” said Hunt. “It’s going to be a big day and I’m ready.”

Hunt’s teammate Jonathan Cyprien, a projected second round pick at safety will headline FIU’s workout.

All 32 NFL teams will be in attendance, which is a good thing for Hunt. He’ll have the chance to steal the show with a good performance.

“I just want to show teams that I’m just as good as the big names you hear,” added Hunt. “I’m just as physical as Jarvis Jones (Georgia) and faster than Manti T’eo (Notre Dame). I plan to show scouts just that.”

With that said, the journey for Collins and Hunt is just beginning. No matter where it takes them, they’ll always have Franklin County supporting them as one.