BELTON — Anyone with the name Kamray has to have quickness and the ability to make big plays. Left guards aren’t named Kamray.
And so it is that Mary Hardin-Baylor receiver Kamray Runnels does everything he can to live up to the name.
“It’s a combination of names,” he explained. “My dad’s name is Ray, so my sister and I both have ‘ray’ in our names. A lot of people like it.
“I know a lot of people in sports named Cam, so I always try to be as great as them.”
So far, Runnels has done an admirable job in his pursuit of Cam-ness. The 6-foot, 155-pound junior out of Edna has a team-high 31 receptions for 351 yards and four touchdowns heading into today’s NCAA Division III quarterfinal between No. 2-ranked UMHB (12-0) and St. John Fisher (10-2) out of New York.
Those aren’t bad numbers, especially considering Runnels wasn’t a refined pass catcher coming out of high school.
“I’ve learned a lot about technique and how to run routes,” he said. “When I was in high school, I didn’t ever block on running plays and could be really lazy in my route running. Now I know more about running precise routes and using my hands to catch the ball, and I work hard to get my blocks.”
It also helps that Runnels has a better understanding of what it takes to play at the collegiate level, something he didn’t have much knowledge of while staying busy by playing every sport in the small town of Edna.
“My first offseason here was kind of tough. I wasn’t used to lifting weights that much every day,” he admitted. “In high school after football, it was straight to basketball then straight to baseball and track.
“I kind of miss playing a bunch of different sports like I did in high school. But once you get here and it’s football year-round, you can commit more and be a better football player.”
As Runnels has grown as a player, so too has the Crusaders’ offense that has become more dynamic with the arrival of quarterbacks coach Cody Fredenburg and the promotion of Jeff Shinn to offensive coordinator before last season.
“We used to never have two pass (sessions) during practice,” Runnels said. “Now we have one session early in practice, then we have another one later. We’ve just made a bigger commitment to the passing game.
“When (Fredenburg) first got here, he was ready to open up the playbook. He’s always messing with Coach Shinn to get us more pass plays, and we receivers appreciate that.”
Runnels isn’t the only one who has noticed the influence of Fredenburg, a former Crusaders quarterback who had stints as an assistant at Oklahoma State, Southern Mississippi and Stephen F. Austin before returning home to coach for his father, UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon,” Pete Fredenburg said. “Usually when I argue with someone in a staff meeting, there’s no argument. It’s just what I say.
“With Cody, it’s different. He feels a little more empowered. I think it’s been healthy. I think it helps us as a football team.”
Whatever the explanation might be, all Runnels knows is that the experience of playing for the Crusaders is a blast.
“My first favorite sport was basketball,” he said. “But in football, you have the cheerleaders on the sidelines and the whole atmosphere on game days. You can’t beat that.”