Quenton Bundrage knew he wasn't living up to his potential. He also knew it was within his power to change things.
So the former Manatee High receiver didn't come home last summer. Instead he stayed in Ames, Iowa, working on his craft to get ready for the 2013 season.
It has paid off.
Bundrage's name was splashed across the country last week when he caught a school-record 97-yard touchdown pass in the Cyclones' controversial 31-30 loss to Texas. It tied for the second-longest TD reception this year in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
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"Staying out here last summer really helped. I worked with our quarterback (Sam Richardson) and other receivers. It helped my route-running and timing," Bundrage said from Ames. "Now we are all on the same page. I understand the offense better, know what I have to do, and I can concentrate on my speed and not have to think so much."
The work enabled Bundrage's natural talent to flow. He is the Cyclones' leading receiver with 18 catches for 323 yards and four TDs.
The redshirt sophomore ranks ninth in the Big 12 in reception yards, fifth in yards per catch (17.9 average), sixth in receiving yards per game (80.8) and is tied for second in TD catches. The 18 points he scored against Iowa is tied for the conference's single-game high.
One of the most important things about Bundrage is that he has proven to be at his best against the best.
He had his biggest games against the Cyclones' two toughest opponents, Iowa from the Big Ten and Tex
as from the Big 12, finishing with five receptions for 137 yards against the Longhorns.
Bundrage has remained true to himself. He works hard and doesn't blame shortcomings on others. ISU fans were in an uproar over a controversial call in the Texas game that negated what they felt was a Texas fumble on the goal line in a crucial part of the game.
"I was able to get open on a safety who took a bad angle on the 97-yard touchdown play. I caught it and then just ran," Bundrage said. "Right now, I am running better routes, and everything has slowed down for me. I play faster because I understand the offense better. Last year, I didn't know the plays as well. I can't control the calls. We could've put ourselves in a position where it didn't have to come down to the call by the refs. But it is what it is."
Bundrage's improvement is not a surprise to the people who have worked closely with him, including Manatee High receivers coach Chuck Sandberg and ISU receivers coach Todd Sturdy.
"With Quenton, it started right when he got here. He has taken the talent and the willingness to work, and it has propelled him," Sturdy said. "His work ethic off the field and the time he spent in the film room, learning the system coming into his redshirt freshman season, made him advanced over the other receivers."
Bundrage still keeps in touch with Sandberg, who is not surprised at his success and is one of his biggest fans.
"When Quenton played for me, he was a great kid who never took a play off and was always trying to get into stuff at practice to learn as much as he could," Sanders said. "The guy was fully on board. He never pointed fingers at anybody, always listened and was eager to learn.
He has great hands and a great work ethic."
Though they lost to Texas, Bundrage and his teammates hope it will propel them to a winning streak. The Cyclones are 1-3, and their two other losses were by eight and six points with a 38-21 win over Tulsa.
In the meantime, Bundrage says he will continue to work hard and show people what he learned at Manatee High.
"I enjoy playing the game. Everyone has days where maybe they don't want to work, but I am a competitor and I hate losing, so my whole attitude changes. I can go inside or outside (as a receiver). I don't have a preference. I will go anywhere they want to help the team," Bundrage said.