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Versatile Dunagan back for G.I.

Versatile Dunagan back for G.I.

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Here's a name Grand Island Senior High football foes will get tired of hearing — Brian Dunagan.

Six months after guiding the Islanders to a surprising basketball title, Dunagan is back. And he's more than ready to start terrorizing opponents on the football field when Grand Island opens its season at Norfolk on Thursday.

"Brian has so many different types of tools,” Grand Island coach Greg Uhrmacher said. "We could put him in there to play quarterback. We could put him in there to play split end.

"He'll do whatever we ask him to do.”

Uhrmacher will ask Dunagan to do plenty. Besides starting at split end and free safety, the 6-foot senior will be Grand Island's kicker.

At each position, Dunagan will be asked to turn in the same type of clutch performance that he did last March. Spectacular guard play from Dunagan helped Grand Island win the Class A State Basketball Tournament despite being seeded eighth.

Ironically, Dunagan's new teammates now find themselves facing a similar challenge after compiling a 4-15 record the last two years.

"We can see ourselves as the eighth seed this season,” Dunagan said. "We haven't done too well the last couple of seasons. We're really looking to improve.

"I think people see us as the eighth seed. Hopefully we can prove people wrong.”

Dunagan can do his part to reverse Grand Island's fortunes by playing like he did a year ago. A three-year starter at free safety, he also made enough highlight reel catches last season to show why he is a college prospect in three sports.

In addition to football and basketball, Dunagan also plays soccer.

"An outstanding athlete and an outstanding person,” Uhrmacher said. "That's probably the most important thing.

"And he is a leader. That's the one thing that all athletes need — great leaders.”

Because of his athletic ability, Dunagan was a contender for the starting quarterback job in the past. Surprisingly, he asked to be taken out of the race.

"I like split end a lot better than I do quarterback,” Dunagan said. "I like catching the ball.

"They throw to you in crucial third-down situations. I like that part of it.”

Dunagan still spends part of his practice time at quarterback just in case projected starter Casey Samuelson gets hurt. If things go as planned, Dunagan will be catching passes instead of throwing them.

He scored two touchdowns while catching 14 passes for 204 yards a year ago. Dunagan posted those numbers despite playing on a team that had trouble throwing the football.

"He just knows where to go to get open,” Uhrmacher said. "He also knows how to get the ball. He's going to catch it where ever it's at.

"If you go back to last season you'll see some tremendous catches that he made going up between people. He just has that kind of ability.”

At free safety, Dunagan intercepted two passes last season. He also recorded 20 unassisted and 29 assisted tackles.

"It helps a lot to have speed and quickness,” Dunagan said. "Some of these guys are a lot bigger than me.”

Having the experience of playing against some of the best receivers in the state is also a big plus.

"This will be his third year of playing free safety. He got a taste of it as a sophomore,” Uhrmacher said. "So he's been back there. He's seen it. He's the leader of our secondary.”

Because of his soccer background, kicking comes very natural to Dunagan. Though he hasn't had a chance to prove it in a game yet, he said he can kick 40-yard field goals.

"I don't know what his range is. We haven't tried that many field goals in the past,” Uhrmacher said. "But if he says he can kick a 40-yard field goal, he can probably kick a 40-yard field goal.”

The University of Nebraska at Omaha and a number of state colleges have shown football recruiting interest in Dunagan. In basketball, the player is confident he can land a scholarship from a smaller NCAA Division I school.

Regardless of what sport he chooses to play in college, Uhrmacher is confident that Dunagan will succeed. He's too good of an athlete not to.

"I think he does,” Uhrmacher said when asked if Dunagan has major-college potential. "He has the type of ability he could play whatever sport he wanted — soccer, basketball or football.”

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