COLUMBIA — Tucker Bounds leaves the offensive huddle and scampers over to his position as wide receiver for the Hickman football team. As the senior looks up into the stands before the snap, he sees his family members sitting in the same spot they always do for the home games: in the second tier of the north bleachers, near the 50-yard line.
However, this season, one person was missing from the family section. It was the person who taught him the game of football, his father Bruce Bounds, who died in May.
“He was always there at the games,” Tucker Bounds said. “That’s probably the one thing I remember.”
Tucker Bounds said goodbye to his father before going to watch the baseball game between Hickman and Rock Bridge last spring at MU’s Taylor Stadium. When he returned home from the game, he found his father lying unconscious in a chair in the living room. When his mother, Linda Bounds, arrived home five minutes later, the two rushed his father to Boone Hospital Center.
After performing several tests, doctors determined he had suffered a subdural hematoma, a slowly progressive brain injury that may have began developing up to a week before he was found unconscious.
“He was kind of having some passing out spells,” Tucker Bounds said. “We definitely weren’t thinking it was anything that severe. Obviously, we were still scared and we were wondering what was going on, but definitely nothing to that degree.”
Tucker Bounds’ older brother, Brady Bounds, arrived at the hospital later that night after he finished taking his final exams to complete his sophomore year at MU. The two stayed together at the hospital throughout the night, spending some time with their father during his final hours.
“You don’t suspect anything is going to happen to your dad because he’s only so old,” Tucker Bounds said. “I was just pretty much shocked and in disbelief.”
Now Tucker Bounds is left with only his memories of the special times he and his father spent together, such as the first time the two went hunting or when they passed the football to each other in their backyard.
“When I was a kid, we would go outside and throw the football or play basketball together. Then he kind of got old and I had to ease up a little bit because I got bigger,” Tucker Bounds said with a laugh.
The Bounds family moved often during Tucker Bounds’ childhood. Bruce Bounds worked in several correction facilities and Linda Bounds worked primarily in the financial department of Bell Sports. The family originally lived in Colorado and made stops in four other states, following Bruce and Linda Bounds wherever their jobs took them, before finally settling down in Columbia.
Tucker Bounds’ parents lightened the stress of fitting in, lending a hand with his involvement in youth sports programs along the way.
“My father and my mother helped out a lot with just getting situated and helping find the best programs to get involved with,” Tucker Bounds said. “They took me places and donated their time to keep me involved in sports and what I loved.”
In addition to his family and teammates, Tucker Bounds has built a stronger relationship with Hickman assistant football coach Arnel Monroe. Monroe’s father died shortly after he graduated from college, and he has helped Tucker Bounds cope with his loss.
“What I told Tucker was that I feel where he’s at,” Monroe said. “I would check in with him probably once or twice a week to see if he was OK. Tucker is a very, very, very mentally tough kid.”
Monroe said he noticed a change in Tucker Bounds as the season progressed.
“Tucker always had a whimsical side to him,” Monroe said. “He was just always a kid out there, being a kid and having fun. I think Tucker’s grown and matured a lot with dealing with his father’s death and this season. I think he’s made that transition from a boy into a man.”
Hickman’s season-ending loss against visiting Jefferson City on Nov. 2 in the final minute brought many Kewpies to tears. Following the team’s post-game talk on the field, Tucker Bounds began his walk toward the Hickman locker room for one last time.
Before he was able to leave the field, he was lifted off the ground in a bear hug from his older brother. It was like the hug a father might give his son after a tough loss, one that illustrates how Brady Bounds has grown closer to his younger brother over the course of the season.
“I wanted to improve our relationship as brothers and friends,” Brady Bounds said. “When we’re together talking about more serious things, that fills the father-figure role. Mainly, I’m making sure that the questions that dad would’ve asked are asked, but also, I’m making sure that he knows I’m here for him.
“It just reminded us that we need time with the people that matter the most, which is your family.”