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Life lessons from legendary linebacker

Super Bowl champion Dan Bunz shares insight with local youths
By: Joanna Jullien Special to The Press-Tribune
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Two-time super bowl champion born and raised in Roseville, Dan Bunz, is legendary for one of the most famous plays in the National Football League. “The Stop” was a game-breaker play at the 49er goal line preventing the Cincinnati Bengals from scoring a touchdown for the 1982 Super Bowl XVI victory. Bunz was recently honored by the 49ers Alumni Association for his famous play. Bunz, who owns Bunz & Co. restaurant in Roseville, said he has always focused on hard work, good attitude and parents who will encourage hard work and good attitude in their own children. In 1978 Bunz was the first draft pick for the San Francisco 49ers. “When the reporters asked how did I feel about being first draft pick, I said that I wanted to work hard to make the team, and they laughed,” he said. Since his NFL career, Bunz has devoted his life toward the mentoring, training and development of the athletic abilities of youth in Rocklin, Granite Bay, Roseville and Sacramento. A partner in Sports Specific Training located in Rocklin, Bunz trains young and old at this facility. As an instructor and coach, Bunz has also transformed the physical education classes at Sutter Middle School in Sacramento. Sports Specific Training is an athletic facility established to help people with training targeted to their sport(s) of choice. “SST is very popular and a great influence on the kids,” said Sutter Principal Chad Sweitzer, Eddie Thomas is a high school senior and a member of the Granite Bay High School varsity football team. He said he is quite familiar with Bunz and his teaching style. “Just being in (Coach Bunz’s) presence made me feel special,” Thomas said. “I felt like with his training, and lots of hard work and dedication, I could do anything.” The Sierra Foothill League coaches have selected Thomas as the Lineman of the Year for the 2008 football season. Kyle Saukko, 19, grew up in Roseville and now plays professional baseball for the Pirates in the minor league. “I have been working with Bunz since I was 12 years old,” Saukko said. “He has helped me to get faster, quicker, stronger, run better and to use my ‘quick twitch’ muscles.” Saukko attributes key lessons from Bunz that helped him to grow up and pursue a professional career as an athlete: Stay physically fit and mentally strong, earn good grades and stay away from drugs and alcohol. Saukko said he listened to Bunz because he succeeded even though he wasn’t always the most talented. Bunz describes what happened after he was cut from his first Pop Warner football tryout. “My mom said it was because I was a ‘sissy’ – and I was,” he said. After that tryout, Bunz said he worked out with his older brother. “He worked me hard … I made the team the next year and I wasn’t very good even then,” he said. This childhood experience has been an inspiration for the children he works with today. Bunz said he stresses to the youth that hard work and a great attitude will get you far. “It’s not what you do in front of the coach; it’s what you do (to work hard) away from the coach,” Bunz tells the athletes training with him. He points to Jerry Rice who was also a star alumni of the San Francisco 49ers. “He worked hard above and beyond to get that edge,” Bunz said about Rice. Bunz said he enjoys coaching and training youth and said he has found that children today more than ever need encouragement to work hard. “Some kids don’t want to work and parents think they should get playing time anyway,” Bunz said. According to Bunz, it is also vital that youth coaches test the players what they are teaching them. He said testing kids on what they are supposed to know how to do correctly, hard work and good attitude are the keys for youth to achieve their potential in sports and life.