During his senior year on the football field, Bridgeport High School’s Jeremy Gum decided if the Class AAA playoff game with University was going to be his last, then it was going to come down to the wire. It was in that game that Gum’s quick thinking stopped the Hawks from creating a deficit too big to overcome.
With the Indians trailing in the second half, an interception collected by UHS appeared to spell doom for any chances of a Bridgeport comeback. Even worse, the University defensive back had a certain pick six as the open turf of Wayne Jamison Field was the only thing in front of him. The touchdown, however, would never happen as the player’s score was nullified by one of the things behind him. The "thing" was Gum and, although Bridgeport would lose the game, it came down the final quarter and the final minutes.
“Jeremy had great awareness, and he knew he was going to be unable to make a play on the ball so he used his football intellect and made a play to save the touchdown by slowing down enough to let one of the opposing blockers run into him from behind,” said Indians football radio analyst Tim Brady. “He drew the foul for a block in the back, which brought the ball back into the field of play. That kept Bridgeport in the game. That shows just how smart Jeremy was as a football player. If he couldn’t do it with his legs, he did it with his head.”
Heady? Absolutely. And it was just part of the package that Gum brought to the table during his senior year.
“He was real athletic and he had good speed. I can assure you that he would have been an excellent receiver if we would have had been a passing team,” said BHS coach Bruce Carey. “He was small for a tailback, but he turned out to be durable. That was big because we had injuries we had to deal with and Gum stepped up.”
The injury in question was to starting tailback Chris Enourato. While Gum was playing his “slash” role all over the Bridgeport offensive lineup, Enourato was busy serving as the Tribe’s workhorse in the backfield. That all changed in the third game of the 2005 season. In a game at Lewis County, Enourato was tackled along the Bridgeport sideline and he blew out his knee. The football season for Enourato was over; and many thought the chances of a successful season for the Indians were also over.
“After that injury he got thrown in there and durability was never an issue. You know, you can have every test possible and watch game film trying to determine things before you get into a game situation, but once that whistle blows you realize there’s no way to measure a guy’s heart,” Carey said.
Gum not only filled in for Enourato, but excelled. By season’s end, Gum had become an absolute force offensively and the numbers reflect that. After getting into the primary ball carrier position, Gum managed to finish his season with 1,342 yards. He finished his three-year run with the Indians with 2,080 yards on 354 carries for an average of 5.9 yards per
carry. Gum also finished his career with nine 100-yard rushing games.
Perhaps Gum’s biggest game took place his senior season against Fairmont Senior. In that outing, the Polar Bears were dominating for almost the entire first half when a FSHS player was whistled for a late hit against Bridgeport fullback Daniel Hill. The play not only ignited a fire under the Indians, but under Gum as well. He took the pitch following the late hit and exploded through the line for a long run and a score. By game’s end, Bridgeport had taken a 41-14 win and Gum had finished with a career-high total of 245 yards rushing.
“He wasn’t the rough runner, but more of a finesse runner,” an analyst involved with the 40 for 40 series said. “He had excellent vision and he used that to his advantage.
“You’d watch him run and end up shaking your head because he’d get 12 yards on a play where there was nothing there. He’d have a 100 yards rushing and you’d never notice it,” the analyst continued. “His feet were good and he had good speed, but average size. The thing that he had was that knack to just hit a hole and explode through it.”
As good as he was offensively – and that’s where most remember him – it was on defense where Gum was even more at home. He dominated in the Bridgeport defensive secondary, making big plays as well as game-changing ones.
“He was always around the ball and knew where it was going on defense,” the analyst said. “On pass plays, he read the quarterback and could tell where it was going to be. He had a feel in that secondary. He made some big plays back there.”
There was no argument from Carey when asked about how good Gum was in the secondary.
“Well, he was smart as hell in the secondary,” Carey said matter of factly. “He was just a ball player. He wanted to compete in any sport he played in and he was usually pretty good at it.”
As it turned out, Gum was very good at it. Following high school, Gum spent time at Potomac State before joining the West Virginia University baseball team where he was one of the club’s most productive players.
“I’m not 100 percent certain, but I think he was the first two-sport Class AAA All State first team athlete, in team sports, since Chris Sprenger did it in three sports back in 1970,” the analyst said. “There have been some kids get it in one team sport and then in a sport like wrestling, but no one to my knowledge has done it in two team sports since Sprenger. That’s really impressive.”
Editor's Note: The top Top photo shows Jeremy Gum running for yardage in the Indians' game his senior year versus Grafton. Middle photo is of Gum knocking away a potential pass against the Bearcats. Bottom photo shows Gum running around the left end against Robert C. Byrd in a Saturday afternoon affair. The bottom photo in this article is courtesy of the Bridgeport High School journalism department and teacher Mrs. Alice Rowe. Connect-Bridgeport would like to thank Mrs. Rowe for her cooperation in assisting with the 40 for 40 series and providing archives necessary to move the project forward.
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