Oregon's Unger coming to grips with high NFL Draft projection
POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Playing in the NFL hasn't exactly been a lifelong goal for Max Unger.
Raised on the Big Island, Unger grew faster than most of the other kids and his size kept him from playing Pop Warner ball as a kid.
He didn't pay much attention to football early on and didn't start playing organized ball until he enrolled at Hawaii Preparatory Academy as a freshman.
Profile: Max Unger
HPA product Max Unger impressed scouts at the NFL Draft combine:
» 40-yard dash: 5.35
» Bench press: 22
» Vertical: 24.5
» Broad jump: 7-9
» 3-cone drill: 7.39
» 20-yard shuttle: 4.5
Yet he finds himself days away from possibly hearing his name called in the first round of the NFL Draft.
"It was more of one thing led to another," Unger said. "I kind of stumbled into it."
Unger, who completed his career at Oregon last fall, is one of the top-rated centers in this year's draft. Some analysts are projecting him as a late first-round pick on Saturday, the opening round of the draft.
"There's really no point in being nervous because you have no say on where you go," Unger said in a phone conversation from Eugene, Ore. "It's the exact opposite from college, where you're deciding where to go. It's completely out of my hands."
Still, as the first round gets into its later stages Unger expects "my heart will be pounding with every pick."
His father, Keith Unger, said the family will fly up to Eugene this week to watch the draft with Max, who returned to campus to train.
"It's been a crazy journey for him, so this Saturday is going to be huge," Keith Unger said.
Although he got a late start in the game, Unger proved to be a quick study and had help from a former NFL offensive lineman in HPA assistant coach Bern Brostek.
"Coach Bern was the real deal," said Unger.
The size that kept him off the field in his younger days made Unger an intriguing prospect for college recruiters and he eventually signed with Oregon. After a redshirt year, Unger progressed rapidly up the depth chart.
He started at tackle his first two years and was named the Ducks' outstanding lineman as a sophomore. He won the award the next two years after moving to center and started 51 consecutive games.
"I like playing tackle, but I think my body's better suited to playing center," said Unger, who was measured at 6-foot-5 and 309 pounds at the NFL Combine.
Since completing the season, playing in the Senior Bowl and performing for scouts at the combine and Oregon's pro day, Unger has had some time to kick back in Eugene lately. He graduated last June with a degree in art and took graduate classes while finishing out his playing career with the Ducks.
He said he wanted to continue to train at Oregon rather than return to Hawaii so he'd be closer to his next destination — wherever that may be.
"It's kind of surreal that it's less than a week away," Unger said. "I haven't really wrapped my head around it."