High School Sports

Why rewriting Bellefonte’s record book isn’t what’s most important for RB C.J. Funk this season

C.J. Funk knew he could break the 22-year-old Bellefonte career rushing record last Friday night. He entered the Red Raiders’ matchup with the Central Mountain Wildcats just 65 yards short of Chris Shivery’s school rushing record of 2,546 yards. Funk knew this was likely to be the night he forever etched his name into the Bellefonte record books.

The thing is, Funk didn’t really care.

That’s not to say he wasn’t proud of what he was about to achieve, or wasn’t honored to pass Shivery.

He just cared more about helping his team get a win.

That, at its core, is what you need to know about C.J. Funk, Bellefonte football’s all-time leading rusher. The senior running back is heavily invested in his team, and not himself. He strives to do what he must to achieve team success, and deflects when the spotlight falls on his hulking 6-foot, 215-pound frame.

“I’m more of a team guy than being about myself,” Funk told the Centre Daily Times. “I wish it wasn’t an individual recognition because there are so many people involved. When I took a step back (to think about it) I was just thankful for everyone. I’ve had so many linemen over the four years that I’ve played. I’m so thankful for all they contributed for me. They paved the way for me, and I just run, that’s all I do.”

The record came as part of a prolific performance, including 184 rushing yards and a touchdown on only 15 carries. After the game concluded, Funk admitted he was able to acknowledge the achievement, but still wouldn’t go without crediting others.

Linemen Trevor Mauk, J.D. Besch, Julian Emel, Max Barrier and Nick Kreger were the names he gave reporters immediately after breaking the record last Friday.

“I’m just thankful for the standard (Bellefonte head) coach (Shanon) Manning set for all of us,” Funk said. “It drove me to where I am today.”

Funk was so focused on the game — a 41-14 win over Central Mountain — he didn’t realize he’d broken the record.

C.J. wasn’t the only Funk who was unaware. Funk’s mother, Mollie Funk, said she didn’t even know it was a possibility, and found out after the fact from her husband, and C.J.’s dad, Eric Funk.

“I didn’t have a clue,” she said. “I had no idea. It was at halftime (Eric) let me know. When he’s playing football, and I love watching football and love watching him play because the whole game is exciting. But no matter what, we’re most excited when he walks off the field, uninjured, along with his buddies.”

Eric Funk, however, was well aware that history was likely to occur that night at Rogers Stadium. And he wasn’t the only one.

Shivery (1994-97) also came out to Rogers Stadium that night, to watch the prolific rush break his record —with more than half of the season left to play.

“I happened to start talking to someone I knew and he brought up the record,” Eric Funk said. “I’m like, ‘I’ve never met Chris Shivery,’ and he tells me that he’s standing right in front of us. So he turned around and I got to meet him. He was a heck of a nice guy. It was really cool, a guy I’d never met before and only heard his name. I actually watched C.J. break the record with him there. That was pretty cool, and a surreal moment.”

Besides the career rushing record, Funk also tied Bellefonte’s career touchdown mark (39) and the school’s career points record (234) against Central Mountain, and broke Nate Stone’s record for most 100-yard rushing games with 13 and counting.

For all of his achievements in football, C.J. has no plans to pursue the sport at the next level. He recently picked up a preferred walk-on offer from Penn State, a school he grew up loving. But doesn’t intend to accept the offer.

“Honestly,” Funk said, “I’m very thankful for the opportunity they gave me, but I’m super happy with what I’ll be doing.”

What he’ll be doing is playing baseball at the University of Pittsburgh, where he visited and fell in love with the program.

“They have an amazing coaching staff,” he said. “They have a great support system and I was very comfortable and very thankful for their offer as well. I feel like honoring that with them is most important right now.”

Even though he won’t play football anymore after high school, Funk will leave a large legacy at Bellefonte. A legacy so large, it can even be difficult for his family to take in all that he’s accomplished.

But the season isn’t over yet.

“It’s hard to fathom that one person is breaking several records and still has quite a lot of games to go,” Mollie Funk said. “It’s really cool that he’s worked that hard to be able to earn that.”

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Jon Sauber earned his B.A. in digital and print journalism from Penn State and his M.A. in sports journalism from IUPUI. His previous stops include jobs at The Indianapolis Star, the NCAA, and Rivals.