There on the game tapes, it’s unmistakable — Texas Aggie Trent Hunter intercepts the ball, but loses his helmet. Southern Methodist center Blake McJunkin takes him down — but deliberately protects Hunter’s head as SMU teammate Kelly Turner joins the fray.
“Even in the nasty, brutal game of football, sportsmanship is alive and well,” marveled Dallas Morning News sportswriter Eddie Sefko. “Players such as SMU center Blake McJunkin are making sure of it. The senior from Plano showed everybody how to play the right way Sunday.”
“With Hunter’s head exposed and with players still moving around,” noted Brent Zwerneman in the Houston Chronicle. “McJunkin committed an act that serves as a sweet reminder that good kids still play this good game.”
“SMU center Blake McJunkin clearly has multiple sides,” observed the SMU fan site PonyFans.com. “Talk to him off the field, and he comes across as a smart, thoughtful guy who values his family, his faith and his roles as a student and an athlete. But watch him on the field, and he paints a different picture, as one of the anchors of the Mustangs’ offensive line who wages war at the line of scrimmage.
McJunkin’s is a job that requires intensity to the point of ferocity. Even in practice, teammates say, McJunkin is one of the Ponies most likely to finish blocks when the team goes to live 11-on-11 drills. In games, his desire to dominate and physically overwhelm opponents never gets called into question.
In Sunday’s season opener at Texas A&M, the two sides seemed to merge. When senior Texas A&M defensive back Trent Hunter intercepted a pass, his return came to a sudden halt when he ran into McJunkin and SMU right guard Kelly Turner. Hunter’s helmet flew off, leaving his head exposed to the risk of injury.
But McJunkin and Turner didn’t take the opportunity to injure Hunter, who, at a listed weight of just 192 pounds, gives away more than 100 pounds to both SMU linemen. They made sure Hunter was tackled, but McJunkin appeared to wrap his arms around Hunter’s head and then use his own body to protect his opponent from the risk of another injury.
“It was a funny deal,” McJunkin said. “It’s not like I had the time to look, register the information and make a decision to protect Trent Hunter. But I play football for a number of reasons, and one is to play it the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Watch the play for yourself: