For the second straight year, wide receiver Byron Bundy thought about quitting the Hickman football team.
But the day this past summer he was going to walk into coach Jason Wright’s office to tell the coach how he felt, something made Bundy change his mind. Bundy called it a sign from God.
That day, Bundy checked his mailbox and found recruitment letters from Harvard, Michigan State, Kansas and Arkansas. Those letters led Bundy to think football could be a major part of his future and a college scholarship might be possible. Those letters led him back to football, a sport he has grown to love.
Now, four games into his senior season, Bundy has emerged as a leader for Hickman. During summer practices and the first three games of the season, Bundy led by example. He set the tone with great performances. But after an 0-3 start for Hickman, Bundy realized example alone was not good enough.
“I’ve become more vocal now,” Bundy said. “We needed somebody to step up and lead us.”
Being more vocal doesn’t mean Bundy yells at his teammates when they make mistakes. Wide receiver Quinton Vaughan said Bundy takes more of a joking approach with his teammates, and the team is responsive to Bundy’s leadership style.
“People aren’t going to like you if you boss them around and are uptight,” Vaughan said. “But if you joke around with a leadership role, more people will look up to you.”
Fellow wide receiver Derrick Smith points to Bundy’s extremely competitive nature and high-energy personality as a reason for his successful leadership.
“He is a leader because he hates to lose,” Smith said. “If he thinks the team isn’t playing hard, he’ll call you out on it, because he wants the whole team fighting together. Everybody follows his lead and feeds off his energy.”
Wright said Bundy will do anything to win a football game. Like most every player at a skill position, Bundy said he would love to have the ball in his hands on every play. But Wright said Bundy will gladly block for his running backs if that is what the team needs to succeed.
“He is a leader because he makes plays, is tough and is a competitor,” Wright said. “He will do anything you ask him to do.”
When asked about Bundy’s mulling over playing football this season, Wright was surprised. But he was happy his wide receiver chose not to step away from the game.
“That would have been devastating to our team,” Wright said.
Bundy’s accomplishments this season certainly validate Wright’s statement. In Hickman’s first four games, he has 17 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown. He leads the team in all of those categories.
Like Bundy, wide receivers coach Marcus James has been with the Hickman team since 2004. James has seen Bundy mature for the past three seasons.
“He is one of those stories where you coach to see that kind of development in a player,” James said. “It is awesome to see a guy step out of the shadows and not be afraid of the light.”
Expect to see Bundy is a slightly different capacity when Hickman plays No. 3 Rockhurst tonight. In Hickman’s victory over Francis Howell, Bundy lined up on the defensive side of the ball for the first time in his football career. He played safety and finished the game with an interception and two fumble recoveries. Because of that success, Wright said Bundy will see more action in the secondary in Hickman’s upcoming games.