Buncom operates a head above thanks to family influence


One of the revelations of two trying weeks for Stanford football has been the play of sophomore cornerback Frank Buncom. Thrown into action because of injuries to starters Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder, Buncom responded with a pick-six against Washington State last week in his first collegiate start.

"He's one of those guys who played on both sides of the ball, so he understands route combinations," said David Shaw, Stanford's Director of Football. "He understands quarterback timing, he understands leverage. When we brought him in for camp, we'd do the drills, and you didn't have to teach him. Great technique."

The name Frank Buncom is a special one in San Diego, where the Stanford player grew up. This Frank Buncom actually is Frank James Buncom IV. His grandfather, Frank Buncom II, was a three-time All-American Football League selection as a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s and a charter member of the team's hall of fame.

At age 29, while a member of the Cincinnati Bengals on the morning of their 1969 season opener, roommate Ernie Wright was awakened in the team hotel to the sound of Buncom gasping for breath. Paramedics arrived, but were unable to save Buncom, who died of a blood clot that formed in his knee and traveled to his lungs.

Buncom wore No. 55 with the Chargers, a number later used by Junior Seau, and retired by the franchise in 2012, after Seau's premature death.

His son, Frank III, was seven weeks old at the time, but grew to love the game as well and taught young Frank how to study film from the age of 7, in Pop Warner ball.

"It's been ingrained in me from a very young age," said Frank IV. "My dad has a hands-off coaching method. Growing up, he would ask me every year, 'Do you want to take a year off of football?' He was never the father that was going to force to play something I didn't want to play. Obviously, I never did because I love the game."

Despite never knowing his grandfather, Frank IV says he remains influenced by him.

"Most of the things I heard about him were not football-related," Frank IV said. "Yes, he played for the San Diego Chargers and is in their hall of fame, but I've always heard about things how he was as a man, how he carried himself, and the things that he did for the children of the community.

"I've always thought of him less in the football aspect and more in how I can better myself to be a man and emulate him. And, when I pass on, people can continue to talk about the Frank Buncom name as giving back to the community and being a wholesome well-rounded person."

Buncom has known since he was a young child what he wants to do with his career: a neurosurgeon.

"I always wanted to be a doctor, and my grandmother, Frank II's wife, passed away when I was around 7 years old, from pneumococcal meningitis," said Buncom, a human biology major with a concentration on brain and behavior.

"It's an infection with swelling around the brain from pneumococcal bacteria. I don't know if I was 7 years old, but it just clicked, I want to be a neurosurgeon."

— David Kiefer/Stanford Athletics

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