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Coeur d’Alene receiver Bubba Duran has made the most of his senior year, catching a team-high 64 passes. (Kathy Plonka)

Coeur d’Alene receiver Duran made great leap this year

Bubba Duran wasn’t on the Coeur d’Alene football team’s radar a year ago. So to go from where he was to where he is today is nothing short of amazing.

Duran thought his athletic ability alone would translate into time on the field last year.

“It took Bubba a little while to learn how to work,” CdA coach Shawn Amos said. “If you’re going to play for us, you have to work hard.”

Here’s the eye-popping statistic: Duran didn’t have one reception last year. Going into CdA’s 5A state championship game Friday against Eagle (10-1), he has 64 catches and is within six of matching a 1983 school record for most receptions in a season.

“Not in my wildest imaginations,” Duran said of whether he thought he’d have a season like this fall. “Looking back at what the receivers did last year, I thought maybe I’d be around 50.”

Part of what slowed Duran down last year was a major off-the-field issue. Former baseball standout Devin Austin, who was dating Duran’s sister, died in a car accident last fall. Duran looked up to him like a brother.

“He had a big impact on my life,” Duran said. “(The accident) affected my focus.”

Four days before his senior season began, Duran faced another stern test of his focus. His father had to go to jail for a DUI. He hasn’t seen his son play all fall.

“It bothered me a lot early in the year,” Duran said. “But I talked to Amos about it. He’s always been a big help with off-the-field issues.”

Duran is 85 yards shy of 1,000 and has 10 receiving touchdowns. If he has an average game, he’ll get the record and eclipse 1,000 yards.

He’s gone from a player who didn’t know how to get on the field to one that Amos can’t keep off the field.

“He’s very competitive. You have to pull him off the field,” Amos said.

His coaches learned early this year that they couldn’t ask Duran, who also starts at cornerback, if he wanted a break.

“It’s my senior season. I don’t like sitting,” Duran said.

Amos and his staff love to tag their players with affectionate nicknames. Defensive coordinator Jeff Vesser came up with a Mexican name that described Duran as the glove.

That wasn’t affectionate enough for Amos. So he changed it to mittens.

“He’s got amazing hands,” CdA quarterback Chad Chalich said.

“When he catches the ball, he knows what to do with it. He’s been my go-to guy all year. Whatever position or sport he plays he’s one of the best because he’s got a drive. He excels at everything. Every ball I throw to him he catches.”

Duran was part of CdA’s state championship last year, but only as a letterman. Friday’s game is important to him.

“This feels like my first state title,” Duran said. “This season has meant a lot to me. Last year was a great time, but I didn’t have a significant impact. Last year I didn’t feel valuable.”

Bubba isn’t Duran’s given name. On the birth certificate, it’s Jordan. But when he was 2, his parents started calling him Bubba.

“They didn’t think it would stick, that I’d grow out of it,” Duran said.

Duran, all of 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, also plays baseball. He was the Vikings’ utility player last year, starting at designated hitter and playing at second base when needed. He’s projected to start at shortstop next spring.

“Baseball has always been my favorite sport, but there’s nothing like high school football,” Duran said. “In football you have so much camaraderie and it’s a family atmosphere.”

He understands there’s not a huge demand for 5-8 receivers in college, and will most likely use baseball as a vehicle to college.

“I’ve always assumed I’d go to college in baseball,” he said. “But if an opportunity came along in football, I’d consider it.”