Brandon King lay on Faurot Field, motionless and unable to feel anything.
As trainers rushed onto the field, players on both teams went to a knee, and the crowd witnessing the Hickman-Rock Bridge football game on Oct. 28 went silent.
Moments earlier, the Hickman wide receiver caught a pass over the middle of the field. As a Rock Bridge linebacker closed in, King ducked his head and braced for impact. The defender’s helmet collided with the back of King’s helmet.
King crumpled to the ground and didn’t move.
A stretcher was rushed onto the field, and an ambulance parked nearby. In the ambulance, King began to regain feeling in his hands, and after his CAT Scan at the hospital, feeling returned to his entire body.
He suffered only a bruised neck, and was released from the hospital that night. But not before several teammates came to visit him.
Byron Bundy was the first.
King and Bundy have known each other a matter of months, but it took them only a few weeks to forge a friendship.
Because his parents were divorced, King was raised by his grandmother in Columbia, S. C. In June, he moved to Columbia to live with his dad, stepmom and two younger siblings.
A day after he arrived in Columbia, Bundy introduced himself to King at a basketball workout.
“I was wondering if he was going to be any good,” Bundy remembered asking himself.
That question was answered a couple weeks later at team basketball camp, when the two played together for the first time.
“We had good chemistry on the court,” King said.
Bundy and King roomed together at basketball and football camp, giving the two juniors more time to bond.
The week they returned from basketball camp, Bundy began showing King around Columbia. He started by inviting King to see a movie with him and his girlfriend.
Bundy also educated King on their class’ social networks.
“(He) showed me this group of people and that group of people and who to hang out with. And who wasn’t a good group to hang out with,” King said.
That’s why King calls Bundy his “Little Big Brother.” Bundy is three months younger than King, but he was taking care of his new friend like an older brother would.
“I was looking out for him,” Bundy said.
Bundy was also looking out for King the day his car broke down — twice. After an early morning football workout, King was dropping off a teammate when his car died. Bundy, who quit football after team camp in June, and then decided to play again in August, was fast asleep when King called him at 7 a.m.
“We got his car going again,” Bundy said. “Then, he’s coming out to my house and it breaks down again.”
That afternoon, Bundy again came to his friend’s aid when King’s car died while he was driving to Bundy’s house to go swimming.
Most of the summer, Bundy and King played on the same AAU basketball team and hung out four or five days a week.
By the end of July, friends would question them if one was seen somewhere without the other.
“If I showed up, they’d be like, ‘Is Byron coming?,’ because they were so used to seeing us together,” King said. “And if he showed up, they asked if I was coming.”
The two were also inseparable during football season. At practice, they were, as Bundy put it, “hang out buddies.”
Anytime the two wide receivers weren’t in on a play or participating in a drill, they were usually keeping each other company on the sideline.
Bundy attributes their friendship to common interests. They both enjoy sports and video games.
“And we act the same, too,” Bundy said. “We’re both goofy.”
They’re also competitive.
“Every day in football practice, we had a competition — one-handed catches,” Bundy said. “Who could get the most one-handed catches.”
Before he can finish, King chimes in. “I usually win,” he says.
“Yeah right,” Bundy replies.
Then they debate which had the better football season.
“How many yards you have?,” Bundy asks rhetorically, knowing he had more catches and receptions.
King fires back a question of his own. “How many touchdowns you got?” he asks, knowing he had a touchdown reception and Bundy did not.
But as they transition into basketball season, after missing a week-and-a-half of practice because of football, the two are more concerned with catching up to speed than debating which has the better jump shot.
King, a 6-foot-5 center who has only been playing organized basketball two years, is looking to crack the Kewpies’ starting lineup after starting on his 12-2 junior varsity team last year.
Bundy, a 6-foot-3 guard/forward, worked his way into the Kewpies’ starting lineup last year as a sophomore. He’s been playing basketball for as long as he can remember and gives King plenty of free pointers.
“I’ll tell him something, and then he’ll try it on the court and it will work,” Bundy said.
Through their friendship, King has also gained an “uncle.” That’s what he calls Bundy’s dad, who came with his son to visit King at the hospital that night.
Now, their fathers have become friends.
“It’s weird because his dad acts just like my dad,” Bundy said. “They bond together really good.”
Just like their sons.
“I was 1,000 miles away, but I kind of had a brother here,” King said. “And then when I got here, we were just always together. I can’t explain it.”