Senior Feature -- Antwaun Bynum

MUTIGERS.COM Senior Defensive End Antwaun Bynum
MUTIGERS.COM
Senior Defensive End Antwaun Bynum
MUTIGERS.COM

Sept. 10, 2002

by Rob Coons
MU Athletic Media Relations

Many people experience setbacks at some point in their lives. What makes people unique is how they deal with these experiences. Some people simply give up, and let obstacles control them. Others fight adversity, and may or may not end up overcoming it. Some people, usually strong minded ones, choose to learn from their setbacks.

Antwaun Bynum definitely fits into the last category.

Bynum hasn't had an easy road to get to where he is today. The senior defensive end has faced and overcome numerous challenges on his journey to a starting spot with the Missouri Tigers.

But he's never given up, and it hardly seems like he's ever let his situation affect him at all. Quite the contrary -- Bynum has let the setbacks make him stronger. That's probably what has allowed him to be recognized as one of the top defensive players in the Big 12.

It's hard to believe that for Bynum, football is still a relatively new game. While many players at this level have been playing since sixth or seventh grade, Bynum started his freshman year at Parkway Central High School in St. Louis.

What's even harder to believe, though, is that he started playing really by accident. Bynum's real love in high school was basketball.

"The football coach saw me one day and he told me that I had to come out for the team," Bynum said. "I decided to give it a shot."

By his junior year, Bynum says he realized football might be more than just a passing interest.

"I started to tell I was pretty good," he said with a smile.

Before his high school days were done, Bynum got a taste of the big-time. Parkway Central played in the 1997 Missouri championship game against Jefferson City High School -- and several of his current teammates.

"That was a huge deal for a high school kid, playing in the (then TWA) Dome, with the lights and the crowd," Bynum said. "It was great."

Coming out of Parkway Central, Bynum signed with Mizzou. He felt on top of the world at this point, but it wouldn't last long.

Bynum soon found out that he would not be academically eligible to play for MU. After consulting with coaches, he ended up at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He was obviously disappointed.

"I kind of blew off classes early on in high school," he said. "So I knew I'd messed up. But I decided to work hard (at Hutchinson) and hope that good things would come from it."

Indeed they did. Bynum was named a first-team NJCAA All-American his second season. He made 116 tackles that year, and was named the top linebacker in the Jayhawk Conference. More importantly, he also improved his grades. The stage was set for Bynum to realize his dream and become a Tiger.

In the first two games of the 2000 season, Bynum established himself as a solid contributor, recording eight tackles and forcing a fumble in the Clemson game. But then, before week 3, he suffered another setback.

Bynum injured his knee in practice, and wound up missing the rest of the season. For someone who had waited so long for his chance, it was disappointment once again. But once again, Bynum resolved not to give up.

"Sure, I was disappointed," he said. "But I decided to let it make me stronger. I decided to work hard and overcome it."

That is exactly what Bynum did. He focused on rehabilitating his injury, and was looking forward to a productive 2001 season as an MU linebacker. But once again, another situation would arise.

The 2001 season brought major changes to MU Football, as Gary Pinkel was hired as head coach. Upon arriving at Missouri, Pinkel approached many players about changing positions. Bynum was one of them.

"When I first met with Coach Pinkel, he asked me how I would feel about moving from linebacker to defensive end," Bynum said. "I wasn't real sure at first, but ultimately it came down to whatever I could do to help the team."

Over the course of the season, Bynum recorded seven sacks, tying him for third on the all-time MU single-season quarterback sack list. He also tied a Missouri record with four sacks in a single game against Oklahoma State.

Bynum attributes his success at defensive end to hard work and good coaching.

"The coaches certainly helped me along with the switch," he said. "But I put in a lot of work, too. I want to become the best I can so I can help the team."

As a senior this season, Bynum knows he's in a leadership role on the Mizzou defense. It's a role he doesn't mind at all.

"If other guys on the team look at me, that's fine," he said. "If I can help someone else improve or make them want to work harder, I think that's cool."

Being a senior is bittersweet for Bynum, because even though it's his final season, it also seems as if he just arrived at MU. But he knows that even as short as his time here has been, he can still feel successful for overcoming his setbacks and making it as a Tiger.

To make his senior season a success as well, Bynum has a simple goal in mind: win.

"I want our team to win as many games as we can," he said. "It would be great to go out with a bowl game win.

"We know that if we work hard and play together, good things will happen."

 

 

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