ALMOND – A small celebration after an opening round WIAA playoff victory over Newman Catholic on Oct. 24 nearly turned into a tragedy for Austin Bunders.
Almond-Bancroft’s junior running back/linebacker/wide receiver was hosting some friends for a little get-together after a 28-8 win over Newman before he jumped in his car to take a couple of them home.
That is when disaster nearly struck.
After Bunders dropped off his friends, a pair of deer ran out in front of his car as he rounded a curve, and Bunders swerved to miss them.
The automobile rolled over several times. While the car was totaled, Bunders somehow managed to escape relatively unscathed.
“It was definitely a life-changing thing for me,” Bunders said. “To make it through without any injuries, and then to be able to play (in the Level 2 game against Gillett) this week, I was surprised.”
Bunders wasn’t alone.
He said the police office that arrived on the scene couldn’t believe he was standing outside the vehicle waiting.
Instincts took over, according to Bunders, who had his seat belt on and held on tight to the steering wheel.
“When I was waiting for (the police) to get there, I was just thinking about how I was safe, and thank God it wasn’t worse,” Bunders said.
A week later, Bunders was helping the Eagles rout Gillett 46-19 to reach Level 3 for just the second time in program history.
Bunders, who has turned into “Mr. Versatility” for the Eagles with his ability to impact a game on both sides of the football, scored on a 15-yard run in the first quarter against the Tigers.
In the win over the Cardinals in Level 1, Bunders did a little bit of everything to help A-B move on.
He finished with 39 yards rushing on five carries and hauled in a pair of passes for another 75 yards. Perhaps even more important, Bunders helped bottle up dangerous Newman quarterback Jake Gajewski from his linebacker position.
Just another routine night on the gridiron for the jack-of-all-trades, and a common theme throughout the season for Bunders, who has done his part to help get A-B to this point.
What has been the highlight of your football career up to this point? I guess that would have to be what we’re working on right now (in our playoff run). We’ve never made it this far since 2002, and we want to pass that this year. From the beginning of the year we weren’t sure how good we could be. Then after a couple games we realized that this could be a long year for us in a good way.
You’ve enjoyed success in football and basketball with the Eagles during your high school career. If you were offered a college scholarship in both sports coming out of high school, which one would you accept? I really do love both of them, but if I had to choose one, I would have to say basketball. My family is all about basketball, and that’s the No. 1 thing I like to do all the time. A couple years ago we put a basketball court in our backyard, and my dad has keys to the school, so I can go there and shoot whenever I want.
Who has been your role model growing up, and what lesson have they taught you that you think you will take with you the rest of your life? That would definitely be my dad. He pushes me a lot, and I feed off that a lot. I would say the thing I’ve learned from him that will stick with me is to never give up and make sure you do whatever it takes to make sure you get something you want done.
If you had a chance to meet one person in the history of the world, dead or alive, who would you want to meet and what would you like to find out about them? Probably Michael Jordan. I would want to know what it takes to make it to the next level. It’s really amazing that he couldn’t make his high school team and he became one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. I mean I’ve been on varsity as a freshman and sophomore, so I can’t imagine that happening.
Name something on your bucket list that you absolutely have to cross off before you turn 40: I would like to take a team, either coaching or playing, to the state tournament. I know (after I’m done with school), for sure I want to do something in sports. This year my dad is going to let me coach some of the (third- and fourth-grade) youth teams so that will be cool.
Tell us something about yourself that the average person wouldn’t know about you: Outside of my love for sports, I would say how much I like to go hunting. I love to be in a deer stand and out in the woods. I gun deer hunt during the season, and my brother (Tyler) works at Cabella’s and is working on getting me a bow cheap to try that for the first time.
Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill
Family: Father, Spence; Mother, Genene; Brothers, Tyler (20), Dylan (15), Zachary (13) and Seth (9)
Favorite subject: Math
Favorite food: Pepperoni pizza
Favorite all-time movie: “The Heat”
Favorite TV show: “SportsCenter”
Favorite cartoon character: Jimmy Neutron
Favorite superhero: Superman
Favorite video game: NBA 2K14
Favorite pro athlete: Michael Jordan
Favorite pro team: Green Bay Packers
Favorite vacation destination: Florida