A day in the life of senior O-lineman Chris Bunders

Senior offensive lineman Chris Bunders spends his day with football and his fiancee.

Senior Chris Bunders prepares for practice and weight training Wednesday in the Gibson-Nagurski complex.

Senior Chris Bunders prepares for practice and weight training Wednesday in the Gibson-Nagurski complex.

Adam Richard

At the break of dawn, senior offensive lineman Chris Bunders wakes up at 6 a.m., not to get ready for practice, or class, but to drive for an hour and a half.

âÄúI get the honor of taking my fiancee to work every morning.âÄù  Bunders said without any hint of sarcasm, but total adoration.

BundersâÄô fiancee, Jennifer Polansky, works for a local hospital in the mental health clinic. She supports BundersâÄô passion for football, attends all of his games and even makes trips to road games to watch her future husband take on opposing lineman, while she cheers from the stands.

âÄúIf she had to miss a game, I donâÄôt know what she would do,âÄù Bunders said.

âÄúShe is a wonderful support for me.  I donâÄôt know what I would do without her,âÄù he added.

They met on the first day of 10th grade and began dating shortly after. Bunders was born and raised in Maple Grove, Minn., and attended Osseo High School, where he dominated competition.

He was the ranked in the top-50 in the nation at offensive guard and was a top-10 player overall in Minnesota.

His high school head coach, Derrin Lamker, is still running the show at Osseo and has led the Orioles to an early 5-1 record this year.

âÄúChris started as a freshman, and thatâÄôs not easy to do here.  He was the consummate professional,âÄù Lamker said, noting his respect for BundersâÄô footwork, work ethic and maturity.

âÄúThe Gophers have had a couple tough years, but Chris always says what a great job his coaches and teammates are doing. HeâÄôs always got a positive, mature outlook.âÄù 

Bunders said his dream was always to play Big Ten football for the Gophers.

âÄúWhen I got the chance, I jumped on it. I got some offers from other schools, but this is where I really wanted to play.  When that offer letter came through, I was really happy. I couldnâÄôt be happier,âÄù Bunders said. 

After he drops his fiancee off in the morning, he heads back to campus for treatment on his various injuries sustained from the weekâÄôs abuse on the field, before walking to classes the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.

Football isnâÄôt the only thing Bunders is looking to accomplish at the University.

Bunders is a civil engineering major with a minor in construction management. He said he takes his education seriously, and he proved that by winning a scholar-athlete award in 2007. He also said he knows the value of his scholarship.

âÄúMy schooling is getting paid for and IâÄôm lucky to have that.  IâÄôm going to go out and get my education,âÄù Bunders said.

Civil engineering is a little-known legacy among Gophers offensive guards: Ben Hamilton and Mark Setterstrom previously majored in civil engineering and both went on to play in the NFL.

 Bunders is hoping he can follow in their footsteps.

âÄúIâÄôd love to be able to play more football,âÄù Bunders said. âÄúOtherwise, IâÄôm going to try to line up as many jobs as I can this spring, so I can start working and put some money toward our wedding and house.âÄù

Once Bunders finishes class he heads over to start his work with the team at about 2 p.m. He tapes up his hands and arms to begin his weight training to build up his body to handle the tough job of being a Big Ten offensive lineman.

âÄúWhat you think you can do isnâÄôt even close to what your body is able to do,âÄù Bunders said. âÄúIâÄôve learned to be able to push my body and it has bounced back and stayed healthy for me.âÄù

After weight lifting, he studies in team meetings and then moves down to the field to put those studies into play at practice.

Practice begins at 3:30 p.m. with stretch work and light jogs across the practice field.  Players who donâÄôt hustle to the practice field, skip class or are insubordinate have to wear âÄúMinnesota LopherâÄù pink jerseys at practice.

Bunders is not found practicing in pink.

Head coach Jerry Kill yells and shouts, getting players motivated on special teams while Bunders and the rest of the offensive line jog over to a side field with offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover to work through their drills.

Bunders squats down under a 5-foot netted ceiling and moves forward. Emerging from the other side, he thrusts forward, elevating his defender with powerful arms as he uncoils the springs of his squatted legs.

Bunders, traditionally a left guard, prepares for all offensive line positions.

Jimmy Gjere had a concussion last week, according to Kill, so the team moved Bunders from guard to tackle against Purdue.

 âÄúWeâÄôd be lost without Chris right now,âÄù Limegrover said âÄúHeâÄôs been our MVP of the offensive line.  HeâÄôs a tough guy, a blue-collar guy.âÄù

After the first set of drills, Bunders moves to the opposite side of the field and has to take on two tacklers, maintaining proper leverage to drive through the first block while squaring up the second.

Bunders said practice is where good players are able to become actual college players.  He was redshirted as a freshman in order to get the proper practice to play college-level football.

âÄúI wanted to start right out of high school,âÄù Bunders said. âÄúMy nightmares were soon realized. I realized that I had a lot of work to do. I got to mold my body into what an actual college player looks like. That year was beneficial. If I wouldâÄôve been thrown in, I wouldâÄôve been sinking more than swimming,âÄù Bunders said.

Practice ends at 6 p.m. with a talk from Kill while the players attentively heed his words while taking a knee.

Bunders listens to the coach and then heads to the locker room to clean up and eat with the team.  The team quickly occupies all the chairs throughout the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex, grabbing dinner to refuel their bodies after practice.

Bunders finishes his meal quickly so that he may return home. After 13 hours of class and football activities, he heads home to do his homework for the evening. 

Once all his work is finished, he gets to spend the evening catching up with his fiancee before heading off to bed to start the enterprise all over again the next morning.