For 14 amazing seasons in the NFL, there was no cover corner better than Deion Sanders. Quarterbacks in the league were afraid to throw the ball his way because of the risk it would be deflected or intercepted.
Sanders entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Beaver Dam prep football coach Steve Kuenzi had a high school equivalent of Sanders in senior Adam Bird — whom Badger North Conference coaches voted as a unanimous first-team all-league defensive back.
“Adam is one of the better defensive backs I’ve ever coached here and I’ve been here almost 18 years now,” Kuenzi said. “He certainly ranks up there as one of the best. He covers really well. He can break on the ball really well and I think that’s one of his great strengths.
“He likes to bait the receiver — he’ll study them; he’ll watch them. The receiver might get a quick out or might get a quick slant or might get something on him early in the game, but good teams will go back to what works. They’ll go back to that same route later on and Adam does a really nice job of coming up with big interceptions.”
In conference play, Bird never gave up a touchdown and had three interceptions and five pass deflections. His only touchdown pass given up came against Fort Atkinson when a halfback pass went for a touchdown, but that was in a non-conference game.
He was also a sure tackler for the Golden Beavers, with 15 of his 24 total tackles being solo.
Bird’s last interception came against conference champion Waunakee when he went over the back of the receiver to snag a Jarrett Wulf pass. The Warriors quarterback was a unanimous first-team selection who threw for 1,353 yards on 84.8 percent passing. He also had a 14-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in conference play. Bird’s interception on Wulf marked his ninth career pick, which broke a three-way tie for most in a career at Beaver Dam.
“I didn’t expect him to get it against Waunakee, to be honest,” Kuenzi said. “It’s just because that quarterback is so efficient and hadn’t thrown many interceptions throughout the course of the year. For us to get two of them in that game that was pretty good.”
Bird wasn’t the only Golden Beaver to be recognized. Kicker Kaylee Walters and receiver Broden Boschert were voted to the All-Badger North second team.
Kuenzi said he knew Walters was a soccer player and played club soccer during the season, so they worked out the schedule where she could do participate in both sports simultaneously.
“She worked tremendously hard during practice,” Kuenzi said.
The hard work paid off as Walters was a perfect 21-for-21 on extra points. Kuenzi didn’t have her attempt any field goals as opportune times were few and far between this season.
Boschert earned a second-team selection after running cross country the last two years, which Kuenzi said demonstrates his athleticism.
“Broden is a tremendous athlete,” Kuenzi said. “He’s a good multi-sport athlete — he’s a good basketball player and a good baseball player — and this is his first year playing football. ... He had some injuries early on that he was a little leery about playing football, but he loved the sport.”
Boschert led the Beavers with 25 catches for 319 yards and five touchdowns, showing he could play with some of the best the Badger North had to offer.
“Broden, I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t disappointed,” Kuenzi said. “Broden making second team, I thought it was very worthy. There are a lot of good receivers out there and when you’re a bottom half team, I don’t know what kind of respect you get from other teams, but I think a lot of teams in our league respect us.”
Quarterback Kendric Jimenez and center Brett Mahnke were the only offensive starters Kuenzi had returning this season. Both proved their worth to the conference coaches and were rewarded with honorable mention accolades.
“They’re a good combination,” Kuenzi said. “Both are two-year starters and had good chemistry between the two of them.”
Mahnke had the tall task of facing many odd fronts from opposing defenses, which meant most of the time he had a defensive tackle lined up ahead of him.
And Jimenez completed 51.5 percent of his passing for 909 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We asked Kendric to be more of a dual-threat quarterback,” Kuenzi said. “Kenny will be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t want to run the ball, but he was smart enough to know when he needed to pull the ball and run with it.
“He was good enough at it and elusive enough at it. He knew how to take a hit and get down when he needed to. He got some really good, tough yards.”