Rex Sunahara: Morgantown’s Unsung Hero
After spending a year at Rhode Island, Rex Sunahara decided to join his father, Reed, in Morgantown. The older Sunahara had already established himself as West Virginia’s volleyball coach. But when Rex decided to transfer to play football with the Mountaineers, it took Reed by surprise. In a 2018 interview with WV MetroNews, Reed told Alex Hickey that Rex told his family of his intent to transfer while on vacation at Reed’s native Hawaii. And, like that, with no guarantee that he would even make the team, Rex decided to try his fortunes for the Mountaineers. And after four years, Rex established himself as Morgantown’s unsung hero.
The Career of Morgantown’s Unsung Hero
Sunahara arrived in Morgantown before the 2016 season. After trying out as a long-snapper, the coaching staff allowed him to compete as a walk-on. For the next two seasons, he served as Nick Meadows’ understudy, learning all he could about the position.
Then, in 2018, Sunahara got his chance to shine. Since then, he has been a steady hand for the Mountaineers. On his arrival in Morgantown, in fact, Head Coach Neal Brown called Sunahara one of the most complete players on the team. Sure, others were named to various pre-season award watch lists. Still others racked up spots on various All-American and All-Conference lists. But Rex had Brown’s attention from the moment he walked in. And this season, he has proved Brown’s faith to be warranted, rising as Morgantown’s unsung hero.
Sunahara showed an unparalleled work ethic in developing his craft. A high school wide receiver, in fact, Sunahara did not start long snapping until going to Rhode Island. But he quickly gained a knack for it, and he mastered the art quickly. Sure, he had a good mentor, but the work was all his own. To be sure, the Mountaineers will miss his steady hand next season.
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Sunahara’s work over the past two seasons earned him an invitation to the NFLPA’s Collegiate Bowl. The week’s events are taking place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. The all-star game set-up features 112 players from across the country on two rosters, the National team, and the American team. Former NFL coaches Hue Jackson and Marvin Lewis are heading up the coaching staffs. The assistants are a veritable who’s who of former NFL standouts. Carnell Lake, Ricky Manning, Jr. Kevin Mawae, Rod Woodson, and Dennis Thurman are among the names working out with the college players all week. The game itself is Saturday night on the NFL Network. Last Word on College Football is at the Collegiate Bowl all week, talking to players, coaches and NFL scouts. We had the chance to interview Sunahara earlier this week. His humility and love for the game of football was apparent.
Asked about Brown’s glowing comments on his consistency and play, Sunahara told us that is “is a great honor coming from someone I respect.” He added that the compliment from someone with whom he has a great relationship “meant the world” to him.
As to Brown’s comment that Sunahara was one of the most “complete” players on the team, he noted, “people just think we snap the ball and we are just bodies and are not going to do anything.” Indeed, he added that he’s not just a long snapper. In fact, he “loves contact” and wants to be in on tackles. Sunahara understands and embraces that, if he has the opportunity to play at the next level, teams will ask him to expand his role.
Sunahara’s goal this week is to learn as much as he can. He also wants to perform in front of scouts and “put some good stuff on tape.” Most importantly, however, Sunahara “wants to help the team.” More than anything, in a game built almost solely for scouts, Rex still boils the game down to this simple concept: “[W]e play to win games.” More than just a long-snapper indeed.
Finally, asked about the coaching transition, Sunahara admitted that there were “bumps in the road.” But he said that once the team made the adjustments asked of them, there was full buy-in and the team started “kicking it up.” Sunahara believes the Mountaineers are in “good hands” with Coach Brown. It’s safe to say he’s bought in, and it’s also safe to say he’ll continue to make an impact in Morgantown and beyond.