Lunchbreak: An Up-Close Look at Danielle Hunter’s Early Years

Danielle Hunter has at least 1.0 sack every game this season and currently is tied with Houston’s J.J. Watt for the league lead with 7.0.

Ironically, in the not-so-distant past, Hunter didn’t even know what a sack was.

Mark Craig of the Star Tribune delved into Hunter’s story and wrote about the defensive end’s journey to being one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. In the first section of his feature, Craig explored Hunter’s early years.

He explained that Hunter was born in Jamaica in 1994, wasn’t aware of American football until 2002 and “couldn’t understand why his stepdad would want to spend every Sunday in front of a TV cheering for a guy named Michael Strahan to get something he called a ‘sack.’ ”

“I’d watch and be like, ‘I don’t understand this game. At all,’ ” Hunter told Craig.

Craig wrote the following of Hunter’s upbringing:

Kimara Bonitto was 18 when she got pregnant with Danielle in St. Catherine, Jamaica. The biological father is someone Danielle has seen only once or twice.

She went to New York, where her mother lived, and attended Monroe College while Danielle stayed behind with an aunt. Today, Bonitto is an accountant working on her doctorate while raising daughters Mareme, 12, and Aisha, who [turned] 10 Sunday.

“I had to leave him in Jamaica, or I would have had to stay and not have the opportunity to bring him to America at all,” Bonitto told Craig. “I set myself up as best I could before I could take him. It was our opportunity to come here legally.”

Bonitto married Cheikh Ndiaye, Hunter’s stepfather, and the family settled in Katy, Texas, when Hunter was 8 years old.

At 9, Hunter was playing tag with best friend Jamaal Holmes. Jamaal’s dad, Jerry, was grilling nearby when he saw Hunter run down his son, who was on roller skates at the time.

That moment, Hunter became an American football player for Jerry Holmes’ ADC Raiders of the Houston Youth Football Association. Ironically, his first position was left tackle, although he ended up playing every position but quarterback and punter.

“The first time I put on shoulder pads, I felt like I could run through a tree,” Hunter told Craig. “I felt invincible.”

Barnwell: Thielen has been ‘remarkable’ to start the season

With six weeks of football – aside from tonight’s game between Green Bay and San Francisco – in the rearview mirror, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look across the league at various trends and big moments.

Barnwell wrote that there were lots of things in Week 6 “that I certainly wouldn’t have anticipated or did not believe would happen before the season.”

Among his observations was that Vikings receiver Adam Thielen “would look like the best wideout in league history.” Barnwell wrote:

League history is a bit of an exaggeration, but even after a breakout 2017, what Thielen has done to start the season is remarkable.

[…]

He is now on pace to hit 1,899 receiving yards by the end of the year, and while “on pace” statistics can often amount to parody, Thielen doesn’t show any sign of letting up.

Barnwell pointed out that Thielen became the 10th player in NFL history to post six consecutive 100-yard games. Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson holds the record (eight), which he set in 2012.

According to Barnwell, it’s also worth noting that the situations in which the stats were accomplished were quite different between Thielen and Johnson.

That was the year in which Megatron became the first wideout in league history to top 1,900 yards, coming 36 yards short of the fabled 2,000-yard mark.

Johnson benefited from plenty of garbage time that season; while he didn't set the record because he was catching meaningless passes, 278 of his receiving yards came on drives in which his team had no more than a 1 percent chance of winning, which led the league. Thielen has 100 such yards this season, which is third among wideouts behind Zay Jones and [Giants WR Odell] Beckham.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.

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