Anunike's athletic attributes earned him a shot, and they have been on display since organized team activities: a strong, well-built upper body, a quick first step, and good body control honed by his background as a tight end, the position to which he was recruited by Duke. (He even dropped into coverage and caught passes at his Pro Day workout.)
In watching Anunike daily, one might wonder how the 6-foot-4, 260-pounder went undrafted. The answer lies in his injury history, which was so extensive that he was granted a rare sixth year at Duke. He missed his entire true freshman season of 2008 and all but four games of 2011 following knee injuries. He's had three left knee surgeries, and one more on his ankle.
A graduate of Duke in 2012 with a degree in biological anthropology and anatomy, he became more familiar with his own anatomy than he could have envisioned. But in the last two years, his health improved. He missed just one game in 2012 and none in 2013 as the long-woebegone Duke program finally turned the corner, winning its first ACC division title last year.
"I'm just watching tape, especially guys like DeMarcus Ware,
It's one thing to learn. It's quite another to apply the knowledge. Since training camp began, Anunike has done that, consistently blowing past his man in one-on-one pass-rush drills.
In tandem line drills and team periods, he has also displayed the patience to play off the defensive tackle next to him and attack, which helped him and former college rival
"I've definitely gotten a lot better at my outside rush, and then my inside counter-move," said Anunike. "That just came with practice -- especially going against guys like
Others are noticing.
"He's coming along nicely," said Jackson.
"I just told him, 'It's your time to shine,' Jackson said. I think he's coming along nicely. His pass rushes are nice, his (work against the) run is nice and getting better. He's doing real well for a rookie."
And with good health and good performance, this could be only the beginning for Anunike.
"I'm having a great time. This is an awesome, excellent opportunity," he said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can with it."