Three years ago, Tyler Juncker was a senior at Hilmar High where he played offensive tackle and defensive end for the Yellowjackets and helped earn his alma mater a Division IV SJS Championship.
After graduating in 2011, Juncker joined the Modesto Junior College Pirates where, as the starting defensive end, he again helped his team win a championship with a 2013 Golden Valley Bowl victory while also earning All-Conference honors and being named the team’s Defensive MVP.
Now, with a success-filled resume to his name, Juncker has made the move to Division II football as a defensive end for Western State Colorado University. Though the Mountaineers’ football program has struggled in the past, Juncker is looking at the 2014 season as a shift-in-the-tide moment for his new team.
“The last few seasons, if you look into the team’s history, they’ve only won a couple of games every year,” Juncker said. “We’re on the rise this year. I want to win as many games as we possibly can because I’ve never been on a losing team before and I don’t plan to start now.”
With an overall record of 19-90 since 2004, Western State has consistently been at the bottom of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings. Instead of being driven off by history, however, Juncker opted to join the Mountaineers as he was drawn in by both the challenge of helping cultivate a culture of winning at Western State and by its atmosphere as a town. For Juncker, Gunnison, CO was an immediate home away from home.
“I came up here about the beginning of June, just for a visit, on a road trip with my grandpa and as soon I got into Gunnison, the valley was just green and beautiful. And everyone in the town was just so nice, you could tell it has the same small-town feel as Hilmar,” Juncker said.
In preparation for the looming start to the season, Juncker has been taking reps as the third defensive end on the roster during training camp and off-season practices.
“If one of them goes down I’m starting, but I’m definitely going to be seeing playing time and I’m going to be seeing the field,” Juncker said. “They’re not going to bring in a junior transfer just to stand around and redshirt. I’m here to play and that’s what I plan on doing. I want to work my way up to that starting position.”
Western State’s first game will be played on the road against Wayland Baptist University on Sept. 6 in Plainview, TX. Aside from the team goals of improving on past records, Juncker is intent on making a case for himself as starter, a highly coveted role for the former ‘Jacket.
“I just want to get that starting spot. I’ve started all my life and I don’t like not being the starter. I don’t take that second spot; I don’t accept it. I’m always fighting and grinding to get better,” Juncker said.
As for other local football players with collegiate aspirations, Juncker offered some advice for achieving their football dreams.
“The biggest thing for me is that you have to have the right mindset and attitude. You can’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough,” Juncker said. “You need a whatever-it-takes attitude. Keep grinding and keep believing in yourself and you can do it.”