AMES — ISU star receiver Quenton Bundrage found the defender, engaged him and held his block.
Four plays into Iowa State’s 34-14 season-opening loss to North Dakota State, he hadn’t made a catch, but his toughness off the ball helped running back AaronWimberly zig-zag six yards for a first down on what proved to be a touchdown-producing drive.
Bundrage had worked hard to improve his blocking skills, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino said.
The result of his ardor was on display, too — until Bundrage tumbled to the ground and began clutching his knee.
He heard a pop.
He knew it was severe.
But just how serious?
That took a while to determine.
“I was sure that it hurt real bad, but I was able to get up on my own power and walk off so I didn’t think it was an ACL injury,” Bundrage said Wednesday night.
An MRI later showed that it was indeed a torn anterior cruciate ligament — and the big play-producing junior’s season was over.
Now for the reset.
Bundrage, who’d already enhanced his leadership skills in the offseason, redoubled his efforts to show the way not only by example, but with his voice and knowledge.
“With me being more vocal, it helps them a lot,” Bundrage said.
He’s talking about younger receivers, like sophomore Dondre Daley, who caught a career-best five passes.
And freshman Allen Lazard, who turned a post route into a 48-yard play after replacing Bundrage as an outside receiver.
“I’ve never been injured before, especially not like this,” said Bundrage, who tied a Cyclone record with nine touchdown receptions last season. “But I have to be that guy here, especially with me being a leader. I can’t show that I’m down even if I am. It’s showing what type of character I have and I’m also helping myself build a stronger character.”
Supportive texts and tweets buzzed into Bundrage’s phone as news of the injury spread.
One who reached out to support him: Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, who will try to help beat ISU in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 opener at Jack Trice Stadium.
“It means a lot because at the time, I was a little down on myself,” Bundrage said of the well-wishes from friends, acquaintances and total strangers. “But then when you see how many people care about you, are reaching out to you, it shows how much they care and it made me lift my spirits up a little bit.”
They keep rising, even though a long road to recovery stretches to the horizon.
“I’m going through pre-hab right now,” he said while balancing himself on a pair of crutches.
Bundrage said the swelling must go down before a surgery date can be set.
He said he’s ready to face the challenge — and come back stronger.
“I know plenty of people that came back from ACL injuries,” said Bundrage, who added that the potential for a medical redshirt ‘wouldn’t hurt.’ “It’s pretty much a mind thing. If you put your mind to it and work hard you’ll get back to being the same person, if not stronger than you were before. I don’t have any doubt in my mind that I’ll come back next season and be the same person, if not better.”
FARNIOK ON TRACK: Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said injured center Tom Farniok (MCL) was active in Wednesday’s practice after not practicing Tuesday. "He was out there in full pads with everybody else and got a number of looks until we were satisifed," Rhoads added. "Then, iced him down and he watched the rest of it."