College Football: Catawba’s Bunn 3-for-3 on TD catches
By Mike London
Catawba sophomore Brandon Bunn isn’t as fast as he used to be, but he hasn’t lost a step mentally.
“No matter who it is out there, I have confidence they can’t cover me,” Bunn said. “I have to believe that. I have to get open, give my quarterback a target.”
So far so good for Bunn, who has made a touchdown reception in each of Catawba’s first three games.
Bunn, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, has matched his TD total from last season already. He pulled in 29-yard and 14-yard scoring passes from Howard Williamson in Catawba’s first two games and caught a 51-yarder from Patrick Dennis against Livingstone.
“Brandon is not an imposing-looking guy, but all he does is catch touchdown passes,” Catawba head coach Chip Hester said. “He’s a good athlete, but he’s a better football player. He has great football instincts and he can just feel those windows in the secondary.”
At Kellam High in Virginia Beach, Va., Bunn was a wingback and quarterback in a Wing T offense that kept the ball on the ground 95 percent of the time as well as a cornerback.
He was a legitimate sprinter and ran the 100, 200 and 4×100. Scout.com listed him as a 4.38 guy in those days.
“Now it’s more like 4.5 or 4.6,” Bunn said. “Two real bad hamstring injuries.”
The Tidewater area of Virginia produces great athletes, and Bunn competed against people like current Florida star Percy Harvin.
“Anytime I turn on the TV on Saturday to a big-time game, I’ll see two or three guys that I played against,” Bunn said.
Bunn had lots of physical skills coming out of high school, but other areas had to catch up. A year at Fork Union Military Academy helped him develop.
“When I was 18, I was just a typical kid,” Bunn said. “At Fork Union, every decision is made for you. But getting up at 6 a.m. every day and putting on that uniform helped me mature a lot. I grew as a football player and a man.”
Bunn played quarterback at Fork Union. His tight end was Phillip Merling, who starred at Clemson and was the 32nd pick in the 2008 draft by the Miami Dolphins.
Bunn adjusted to a tightly structured lifestyle so well at Fork Union that he accepted a football scholarship from Virginia Military Institute. VMI originally recruited him as a cornerback.
He liked VMI and head coach Cal McCombs, converted to receiver and was up to third team on the depth chart as a true freshman when he suffered a hamstring injury that turned his season into a redshirt year.
The injury put him on crutches three weeks and on the sidelines three months.
“Then, after my first semester at VMI, they fired the whole coaching staff,” Bunn said. The new coach (Jim Reid) was a Wing T guy, and as a receiver, I just couldn’t go back to the Wing T again, so I called my dad.”
Bunn’s father, Gene, was a great football player at Virginia Tech and still holds the school record for interceptions with 18. Bunn still says his mother, Deborah, may be the best athlete in the family. She was a field hockey star and Female Athlete of the Year at Old Dominion.
Bunn’s father had moved to Huntersville and checked on area colleges to which his son might transfer.
“Catawba was right at the top of his list,” Bunn said.
Bunn came out of nowhere in 2007, emerging as key contributor in a receiving corps headed by Brent Johnson and Antwan Strong.
Catawba trailed 21-3 at Carson-Newman when Bunn caught a 28-yard scoring pass from Brad Roach that helped trigger a comeback and a 55-49 victory. Roach threw 64 times, and Bunn caught six balls, including that first college TD.
“In all the football games I’ve played in my life, there’s never been another one like that,” Bunn said.
After Carson-Newman, everyone knew who Bunn was. He added another TD pass against Lenoir-Rhyne and finished the season with a scoring grab against Valdosta State.
Bunn followed up with a big Spring Game last ó he showed his QB skills by completing a pass ó and his growth as a slot receiver has continued this season.
Asked for the scouting report on Bunn, Catawba offensive coordinator Matt Barrett said, “High motor, tremendous hands, gifted route-runner and aggressive blocker.”
Bunn, who plans to be a football coach, has fit in well at Catawba, and he and roommate Jasmon Carpenter, a starting cornerback, give each other heck at every practice. Carpenter scored an accidental knockout in one sparring session.
“It was a high ball and Jasmon was trying to knock it down,” Bunn said. “My feet got knocked out from under me and I landed on my head, and I was knocked out for a little while. I’ll get Jasmon back, but it’ll have to be after the season. Right now, we need him.”
Catawba also needs Bunn, who is showing every week he’s big enough and fast enough to make critical catches.
“The competition gets a lot stiffer this Saturday when we go to Mars Hill,” Bunn said. “But I’ll be trying to keep the touchdown streak going. Two TDs would be even better.”