The Brownwood Lions will be represented in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington at 10 a.m. Tuesday, as senior middle linebacker Hayden Tunnell has been selected to play in the game. The game will be streamed over the internet at impactfootballnetwork.com.
Tunnell, one of 16 Texas players on the 45-man West roster, is also one of 90 seniors chosen to take part in the contest from the 6,750 who competed at regional combines across the country.
“I got invited to a combine sometime last summer,” Tunnell said. “We drove to Round Rock and went through all the drills, timed my 40, did the bench press and all that, and I didn't really think anything of it. Then right before the Brock game I got an email from one of the coaches that I'd been selected to play in it, so I'm pretty excited about it.”
As a senior, Tunnell moved to middle linebacker where he led the Lions with 87 tackles, including eight for loss, en route to first-team all-district accolades. During his junior season as a defensive end, Tunnell also picked up first-team all-district honors with 71 tackles including 13.5 for loss and five sacks. As a sophomore, Tunnell was tabbed district co-newcomer of the year after amassing 51 tackles, with 11 for loss, and four sacks.
Among the highlights of his high school career, Tunnell said, “Beating Wylie for homecoming was a big accomplishment. And being able to be a part of the Brownwood Lions was a great honor that not very many kids get to experience.”
Brownwood Lions head coach Sammy Burnett said of Tunnell, “He was one of those guys that came to work everyday and he was always intense about what he wanted to do. He spent extra time watching film and preparing himself to make the calls on defense. He really educated himself to be the best he could be at his position.”
The Lions head coach added that Tunnell played a crucial role in the transition of the program when Burnett took the reins just shy of a year ago.
“First and foremost when I came in and set the tone and the way I wanted to do things he was one of the first ones to buy in from cutting the hair to shaving, the little discipline things,” Burnett said. “That set the tone for what he did in the offseason as a leader to show people that we're going to work and adjust to the new system. He never bucked it, just bought into it and did everything he could to be a leader and supporter of the new coaching staff and what we're trying to do. I give him credit for leading the seniors and underclassmen to buy in and make it the best season we could possibly have.”
Burnett added that Tunnell being selected to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl can serve as an eye-opener for younger Lions looking forward to the remainder of their high school careers.
“Any time they see someone who has put in the work and dedication and commitment to the football team and being a Brownwood Lion, to see them get honored is neat for them because it gives them hope that they can get their recognition one day if they put in the work,” Burnett said.
Tuesday's game is the final of four Blue-Grey All-American Bowls played during the last month-plus. The first game was held at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 17, the second at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and the third at NRG Stadium in Houston on Jan. 15.
According to its official website, Blue-Grey Football was established in 1989 and the founders were Gus Bell and his son Erik Bell. Together, they established the brand to help prep prospects from all over the country receive national exposure and increase their chances to secure scholarships to a college, whether that be at the NCAA Division I level or D-II, D-III, NAIA or junior college.
Fast forward to today and Blue-Grey Football proudly hosts close to 20 All-American combines (regional and super levels) at venues all over the country with most taking place inside stadiums and practice facilities that are home to teams from the NFL.
As for his goals for the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl, Tunnell said, “It's a great honor to compete at that high level. It's been a while since I've been able to suit up so I'm looking forward to getting out there and knocking some heads. I'd like to get out there and try and get defensive MVP, so we'll see.”
Tunnell's future plans aren't set in stone, but with more than 650 college coaches and scouts expected to take in the game either in person or through the broadcast, he hopes to have a better idea what direction he will head following the game.
“I've got a couple offers to go play at some small colleges, so I'm waiting to see after this game if any more opportunities open up,” Tunnell said. “After this weekend I start real estate classes so in seven weeks I'll be a real estate agent.”