Part of his offseason routine, and the healing process, was learning as much about his position as he could.
That’s why last January Blaise Gunnerson tuned into the 19th annual All-American Bowl. He watched the game to see how last year’s gridiron senior stars played the defensive end/outside linebacker position. Little did he know, that in eight months he’d be getting a call that will send him to the 2020 edition of the game.
In August, now fully healed and focused on his senior season of football, Gunnerson was prepping for an afternoon practice. That’s when his phone rang.
Gunnerson looked at the number, and saw that it was an out-of-state number, and not one that was saved to his contact list. So he ignored it, and went back to his afternoon regiment.
A short while later Gunnerson received a text on his phone. On the other end was a scout from 247sports, a website that evaluates football talent in the high school ranks.
The text from the scout made the usually reserved Gunnerson break out into a little bit of a celebration.
“It was a normal day in the summer,” Gunnerson said about the phone call that would end up sending him to San Antonio. “I was just getting ready for practice, and I don’t usually answer when I get a call from a random phone number. So the first time they called, I ignored it. Then I got a text from a guy at 247 sports. He called me and gave me the news (that I had been selected to play in the All-American bowl). I started to freak out because I watched the game last year and I know how big of a deal it is.”
This year Gunnerson will be one of two athletes from Iowa to play in the All-American Bowl. The game itself is a highlight of the best athletes in the United States, a chance for the seniors to show their skills one more time before going to college.
Gunnerson became even more excited because of tales he had heard from last year’s game.
“Seeing the game last year really made me realize how big of a game it is,” Gunnerson said. “I actually had a buddy, Tyler Miller from Greene County, who was at the combine last year. He told me how crazy it was, and how all the campers get to watch the game. It’s really cool that the game is the main event, and what I’ll get to participate in.
“The fact that it is on NBC is just crazy. I’m going to work my butt off and just try to have a good game.”
Before he gets a chance to play in the game in San Antonio, Gunnerson still has his final season in a Kuemper uniform to finish.
The Knights host their last game of 2019 tonight when they host Shenandoah at the Carroll Athletic Stadium.
So far on the season Gunnerson has recorded 34 tackles on the season. That includes five solo sacks and six solo tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-6-inch future player at Nebraska has also caught 11 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns from the tight end position.
On Wednesday, two representatives from NBCsports, the channel which will broadcast the game, officially welcomed Gunnerson to the bowl game with a presentation at Kuemper Catholic.
“Personally it’s really cool,” Gunnerson said about being one of two players selected from Iowa. “Coming from Iowa we don’t have the same opportunities to play as long, since the weather isn’t as warm all the time. We make the most out of what we have. We are doing great things. We have an impressive 2020 class here in Iowa. I was just lucky enough to be one of the two selected from Iowa.”
The other Iowa player selected is no stranger to Gunnerson.
Logan Jones is listed as a 6-foot-3-inch, 240 pound player that plays for Lewis Central in Council Bluffs. Although Lewis Central and Kuemper don’t play each other in football, the two schools are in the same conference, and play each other in basketball.
That’s where Gunnerson first played with Jones in a memorable junior varsity basketball game their freshman year.
This year’s All-American Bowl will be held Jan. 4 on NBCSN from San Antonio.