PEMBROKE — Move over Odell Beckham Jr., The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s B.J. Bunn proved Saturday that one-handed catches while falling down aren’t reserved just for the sure-handed New York Giants’ wide receiver.
The senior wide receiver’s athletic grab in the red zone during the third quarter of UNCP’s 38-19 win over Shaw on Saturday was featured at No. 9 on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top 10 plays for Saturday, a first for any highlight in athletic department history. On social media, the clip of the play has spread like wildfire in more than 48 hours with thousands of shares and posts on several different social platforms.
“When I caught the ball I honestly didn’t realize the extent of how big the catch was, but I kind of figured it was big when it got to SportsCenter because Coach (Johnny) Cox sent it in,” Bunn said. “I didn’t realize it was going to go viral like that.”
The link to the video can be found atttached to this story on The Robesonian’s website.
Bunn’s highlight reel catch came on a pylon route where he broke outside to the sideline. Coming out of his break on the route, Bunn stumbled but kept an eye on the ball and threw his hand up to make the backhand catch that was good for eight of his season-high 109 yards receiving in the game.
“I slipped and I kept my eye on the ball the whole time and stuck my hand out there. It just stuck to my hand and I reeled it in,” he said.
Although the play put UNCP just short of the goal line, it set up a one-yard touchdown run by quarterback Patrick O’Brien from the other end of the acrobatic play, starting a 21-point third quarter that fueled the victory.
“When I let go (of the ball) he was coming out of his break and then I saw him slip,” O’Brien said. “It had already came out of my hands so I was just sitting there watching it. All week it had worked out where he catches it and then touchdown.”
The freakish athleticism that Bunn has on the outside has gone viral now, but the sight is nothing new to the junior quarterback. Even though Bunn has shown flashes of his abilities in practices and games, the rest of the offense didn’t quite know how to react watching the play.
“I was taken back by it because it was so awkward, well not awkward, but back hand, falling down, opposite hand,” O’Brien. “It was something else. The whole offense couldn’t celebrate because we were like, ‘Is this is happening right now?’”
Standing on the sideline, UNCP coach Shane Richardson was equally in awe like the rest of Durham County Municipal Stadium and knows that the catch was more than just being at the right place at the right time on the field, but working hard to make those kinds of plays.
“I don’t want to portray this the wrong way, but for as hard as he works, for as competitive as he is, for as determined as he is to do everything he can to contribute to the team, he puts himself in position to make catches like that,” Richardson said. “I know it’s not going to come along every day, and it was amazing, but it honestly doesn’t surprise me . He’s got the ability, he’s so determined to be great, he’s got something to him that makes him have that competitive moxie that you need on your team and that was in part to do with why he makes that catch.”
UNCP has had two other highlights featured on ESPN but none have been on the top 10 plays, according to athletic department officials.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.