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Nebraska football practice, 4/3

Nebraska quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco works with quarterback Andrew Bunch during spring football practice in April at the Hawks Championship Center.

Andrew Bunch took a sizable gulp of limelight this week as several members of the robust Nebraska football media corps sought him out to tell his story.

It's a good one, and could get better in a hurry.

His story is intriguing in part because of his bloodlines. His father, David Bunch, was a walk-on receiver at Nebraska during the 1970s after starring at Omaha South High School for the late John Faiman on the same teams as ex-Husker greats Dave Rimington and Oudious Lee.

What's more, Andrew Bunch's grandfather and great-grandfather worked on Memorial Stadium's construction at different times, dating all the way back to the 1940s. Worley Scott Bunch, Andrew's great-grandfather (David's father), founded the W.S. Bunch Co. in Omaha, an industrial/commercial construction operation that helped with the stadium's building process.

"I think it's crazy interesting," Andrew Bunch says. "My dad's got pictures of (Worley Scott Bunch) working on the stadium. It's crazy that he worked on it, my dad ended up playing here and somehow in a weird spiral of events, I end up here."

His story could become the stuff of legend Saturday. If Nebraska true freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez's knee injury keeps him sidelined — he was held out of contact drills all week — the sophomore walk-on Bunch would get his first start as a Husker in an 11 a.m. game against Troy (1-1) in the stadium his family helped build.

Many seem to regard the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Bunch as a mere caretaker of the position as Martinez heals. But Bunch could make this story all the more intriguing if he shows he's a playmaker, someone capable of orchestrating a win against not only Troy, but perhaps going on the road if necessary and helping beat the big boys of the Big Ten. Why put limitations on him? Why pour cold water on a potentially gripping story?

There's an appealing underdog aspect to this saga. When Nebraska released its two-deep chart Aug. 26, Martinez was No. 1 and redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia was the top backup. Of course, Gebbia soon bolted to Oregon State, leaving Bunch as top backup and now perhaps a starter in his team's second game of 2018.

Bunch's coaches expressed confidence in him this week. No surprise there. But let's be clear: Scott Frost expressed confidence in Bunch clear back in April.

"He's more athletic than I expected him to be," the first-year Husker head coach said then. "When he takes off running, he can make some things happen."

Bunch this week told reporters he loves the speedy tempo of Frost's offense. Some close to the program think Bunch actually might operate the system more efficiently than Martinez, who at 6-2 and 220 pounds is bigger and faster than Bunch.

Frost perhaps had limited expectations of Bunch because the quarterback, after starring at Independence High School in Thompson's Station, Tennessee, had only one scholarship offer from an FBS program — Eastern Michigan.

During his stay at Scottsdale (Arizona) Community College in 2016, Bunch felt it was a possible he might finally get a high-profile scholarship offer. But it didn't work out that way in part because of reasons beyond his control. Right before preseason camp began, Scottsdale's offensive coordinator left the program for personal reasons.

What's more, "It was my first year out of high school," Bunch said. "I didn't know anybody. I was living with my grandparents in Glendale (Arizona), helping take care of my grandpa."

His grandfather, now deceased, battled Parkinson's disease. Grandma needed help.

"I would commute 45 minutes to school and then get back to help her," Bunch said. "So going back and forth and really not hanging out with teammates, that was hard. It just got kind of lonely. That was a rough patch, for sure."

His numbers were decent: 118-for-212 passing (55.7 percent) for 1,331 yards and 13 touchdowns, with six interceptions. But the Artichokes finished 1-9.

"I decided if I was going to walk-on somewhere, I was going to follow in my dad's footsteps to NU," Bunch said. "That had always been in the back of my mind."

Bunch on Saturday morning will be in the forefront of Nebraska fans' minds. After all, he could become the biggest story of the day.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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