Howard Remains Thankful for Mentor, Wayne Hunter

kristianrdyer , TheJetsBlog.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Jets starting right tackle Austin Howard knows a different side to Wayne Hunter.

He is of course the most polarizing man on the Jets last year not named Brian Schottenheimer and fans loved to abuse and ridicule Hunter. The Jets starting right tackle last year, Hunter had his ups and downs last year and graded out as the worst lineman on the team, seemingly often victimized off the edge with a good pass rush. But Howard knows a different side to Hunter, who was his mentor and friend.

And on Sunday in St. Louis, Hunter and Howard will meet again on opposing teams. Hunter was traded to the Rams this season for jumbo tight end and reserve offensive lineman Jason Smith.

“Where he’s at right now and the trade, it’s a great move for him,” Howard told The Jets Blog.

“We’ve seen him on film and all and he’s doing a great job.”

During training camp, it had become clear that Howard was pushing Hunter and making a statement even for the starting position. Even with his position up for grabs, Hunter still continued to advise Howard on the position and giving veteran’s insight, even if it meant him losing his job. After a player, it wasn’t uncommon to see Hunter go up to Howard and give him some insight or to see the two walk off the field together, something that continued after Howard was named the starter and kept on until Hunter was traded.

The two still keep in contact through text messages and Hunter’s wife and Howard’s girlfriend remain close friends.

In the eyes of the man who learned from Hunter, not only was he a class act but a true teammate. It took sleflessness for Hunter to mentor Howard, knowing full well that his starting position was up for grabs.

“He’s a great athlete who really ushered me through camp. Despite what others said and how he was portrayed, he is a great athlete and a good tackle, right or left tackle,” Howard said. “Having the opportunity to learn from someone like Wayne, it was a great opportunity for me to progress and learn.”

Follow Kristian R. Dyer at @KristianRDyer for Jets breaking news and info from Florham Park.