MT. JULIET, Tenn. – Justin Hunter still remembers the feeling of being drafted. It was three years ago when the Titans picked him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Now, the former University of Tennessee is preparing for his fourth season. He's headed into the final year of the four-year contract he signed with the team.
"It seems like just yesterday when I got the call and they drafted me,'' Hunter said on Friday from the Titans Caravan. "Time has flown by. I've had different coaches, three coaches so far, and it's been a trip. So this last year I have to put in my work."
Hunter, who has caught 68 passes for 1,116 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons, would like his fourth year to be his best under coach Mike Mularkey, first-year offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie and quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"I feel like I want to do that every year, just for the fact I set myself to high standards and everything,'' Hunter said. "And we have a good group of guys, the guys to do it."
First, Hunter has to get completely healthy.
Hunter fractured his right ankle against the Panthers back on November 15, and had season-ending surgery the next day. Hunter's 2014 season was cut short after he suffered a lacerated spleen against the Texans in late November.
"I am feeling pretty good,'' said Hunter, who caught 22 passes for 264 yards a year ago after a career-best 28 catches for 498 yards and three touchdowns in 2014. "All the team runs I am participating in, it felt good. I am kind of close, but I still have a long way to go, building up the strength in my leg. But it is coming along.
"I am very anxious. I just want to stay healthy, and be able to help my teammates out there. It is not fun to be sitting."
Hunter, who has played in 35 games during his three-year NFL career, said he's sensed extra excitement in offseason workouts.
He's also noticed something different in Mariota as he heads into his second season.
"Most definitely,'' Hunter said. "He is talking a little more, you can say that. And he is definitely taking the leadership role like we thought he would. And his throwing is just amazing."