Athlete of the week: Ethan Lunning, Zimmerman, football: Hitter, passer, leader

Ethan Lunning, shown here at a passing scrimmage in June, triggers the Zimmerman offense but plans to return to his first love, defense, in college. (Photo by Bruce Strand)

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Quarterback, the most glamorous position in of sports, is where Ethan Lunning plays, but he would rather knock people on their butts than throw touchdown passes.

“I have more of a linebacker mentality,” said the rugged Zimmerman senior. “But I’ll do whatever helps the team.”

Coach Tom Kish put the school’s all-time tackling leader at QB for the second straight year. Lunning also played defense full time last year but this year only sparingly at linebacker. Kish needs him to focus on offense.

“Ethan is a natural leader. He takes command of the huddle,”  said Kish. “He runs our option attack very well and has improved a great deal as a passer over the last year.”

Lunning, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, has helped the Thunder start 2-0, hitting 12 of 26 passes for 270 yards and four touchdowns, and running 11 times for 80 yards.

A starter since ninth grade,  Lunning was Mississippi 8 linebacker of the year his sophomore season, and had the school career tackles record already. He started his senior year with 253 and won’t add much to that record playing mostly offense but it should stand a long time anyway.

About Lunning at linebacker, Kish reflects: “He has incredible instincts and can process information very fast. He plays fast and loves contact. He makes a lot of plays he has no business making.”

Lunning was the third guy Kish tried at QB last year, the first two getting injured. On his very first play, against STMA, Lunning hit George Kratee deep for a 74-yard touchdown, pulling his team within 15-13 late in the game. For the season he threw for 734 yards and three TDs, and ran for 396 yards and four TD’s.

“I’m not much of a passer. I like running the ball more,” said Lunning, although Little Falls might dispute that opinion  after giving up three TD passes to him last week.

Other big plays he’s made include a fourth-and-goal stop to preserve an upset of Cambridge-Isanti his sophomore year, and a 60-yard TD run against Big Lake last year.

Lunning helped the basketball team became the school’s first-ever state qualifier last winter  as a defensive stopper, averaging 5.7 points and 2.9 rebounds  in a lineup that rotated 11 players, nine of whom return. Coach Ben Kvidt describes Lunning as a gritty defender who does the dirty work and little things, and keeps team loose.

In track, Lunning made “state” last June when he won discus at Section 5AA with a school record 153-8.  “A team captain and awesome leader,” said coach Jennelle Leblanc.

Asked about career highlights, Lunning listed three straight wins over Cambridge-Isanti in football, the run to “state” in basketball, going to state in discus, and playing football with two brothers this fall, his twin Caleb and their soph sib Noah.

Lunning has a lot to look forward to his senior year. And next year, too. “I hope,” he said, “to get back to linebacker in college.”


Ethan Lunning

Personal file – Age: 18 … Family: parents Mike and Heather; brothers  Caleb, 18, and Noah, 15 … Sports: football, basketball, track … Academics: 3.5 GPA … College plans: undecided where, football, possibly track, History Education

Favorite stuff – Class: History … TV show: “Scrubs” … Movie: “Forrest Gump” … Music: The Doors, Led Zeppelin … Food: Chipotle burrito’s … Drink: Gatorade, non-alcoholic Bloody Mary’s Reading: world history, and Stephen King … Kickback activity: golf  … Would like to visit: France