Dover linebacker has grown up fast

DOVER — If Rudy Simonetti wants to see how physically tough one of his Dover High football players is, he has a simple test.

The Senator coach just puts them in a drill against Qualeak Bumbrey.

At 17 years old, Qualeak Bumbrey has already conquered a lifetime of obstacles. Photo courtesy of Dover High

“That’s the barometer around here,” said Simonetti. “He’s the hammer.”

Indeed, if physical toughness were the only question at hand, the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Bumbrey would be pretty impressive.
But the fullback/linebacker’s toughness runs so much more than skin deep.

At 17 years old, Bumbrey — whose Dover squad plays at Henlopen North rival Smyrna in its season opener today at 7 p.m. — has already conquered a lifetime of obstacles.

Because of family circumstances, Bumbrey lives on his own in an apartment. Along with being a student and football player, he works a few part-time jobs to help pay the bills.

“At 17 years old, a lot of kids, they don’t get jobs and have got to work overtime, at night, come home at 3 o’clock in the morning tired,” Bumbrey said before practice this week. “I think it’s bettering me to be a bigger man and have a better outlook on the world.

“I feel like I’ve got a jump start to actually see what life’s really about.”

Bumbrey works part-time at the Papa John’s restaurant in Camden. He also cuts grass and babysits, among other things.
“Anything that people need me to do. … I’m always trying to do something,” he said.

The people who know Bumbrey’s life story are impressed by what he’s been able to accomplish both on and off the field.
“He’s a great guy — a hard worker,” said Dover senior center Jason Centeio. “I’ve seen him go through everything in life. He’s very strong physically and mentally.”

“I know all about him,” said Simonetti. “He’s come a long, long way. He’s got a tough family life. This could have gone the other way with him but it didn’t.

“He’s here, he’s working hard. I think sports keep him on the straight and narrow. It helps him cope with a lot of problems.”

On the field, Bumbrey has had to overcome some things, too.

Simonetti brought him up to the varsity halfway through his freshman year. There were times during his first couple seasons when Bumbrey got frustrated that he wasn’t playing more.

And while he might be a physically dominant player now, there were times early on that he got pushed around by the older players.

“It was kind of scary,” said Bumbrey, who also wrestles for Dover. “I saw guys that were older than me. They were bigger and stronger. … I got knocked around a lot. I got put on my butt a lot.

“Every practice I’d come home sore. But I knew, at the end of the day, I made somebody better.”

Now, of course, Bumbrey is one of the seniors. He’s one of the veterans showing the younger guys how it’s done.

A lot of extra time in the weight room has also made him one of the squad’s strongest players. But he’s still fast enough to play on special teams and do some good things with the ball in his hands.

“In my 15 years, he’s one of the hardest-hitting kids I’ve coached,” said Simonetti.

“He’s a beast,” said Centeio. “That is one man that I definitely have to brace myself before I go up against him. … It takes about four guys to take him down. He’s just strong and he will not let you take him down for his life. He’ll just keep on trucking.”

In both his life and his football career, Bumbrey hopes the best is still in front of him.

He’d like to keep playing football in college or maybe go into the military. He said he’s had to learn to believe in himself.

“I’m stronger than what I thought I actually was,” said Bumbrey. “I just take it one day at a time.”

Notes

A reminder that attendance at football games is limited to a few family members of home-team participants. Most schools have distributed tickets ahead of time. … 302 Sports is slated to broadcast two Henlopen games tonight — Smyrna-Dover and Cape Henlopen-Sussex Central. Several other contests are being shown through the NFHS Network. … Lake Forest, Seaford and Woodbridge are playing their home games at 5 p.m. this year while Indian River home games are starting at 6 p.m. Delmar is the only South team still playing at 7 p.m. … Dover center Centeio is sidelined for the second straight year by injury. Last year it was an ankle injury. This year it’s a torn MCL in his left knee. “I’m doing everything I can to get back out there,” said Centeio, who was expected to be a starter. “These guys are my brothers, I love them. Just to see them working, trying for the same goals, it keeps me going.”