WINSTON COUNTY – Addison High School student Will Gunnin, 16, died in an automobile crash Tuesday evening, four days after he and his Bulldog football teammates played Pickens County in the Alabama High School Athletic Association 1A state playoffs.
According to Alabama state troopers, Gunnin lost control of the 2005 Chevrolet pickup he was driving on Winston County Road 39 at approximately 5:25 p.m. and struck a tree. The incident occurred 3 miles northeast of Addison in Winston County.
Gunnin was pronounced dead at the scene.
Gunnin’s friends and classmates have flooded social media since hearing of the tragedy that claimed the young man who was lovingly referred to as “Papa.” They have been using the hashtag “#79strong” in honor of Gunnin’s jersey number.
Said Twitter user @gilbreath4smom, “Will ‘Papa’ Gunnin-always there for his friends! I'll miss those bear hugs and constant antics…”
Gunnin was a sophomore for the Bulldogs, listed at 6’2", 350 pounds. He played nose guard and defensive tackle for the 1A program that had its best record in well over a decade this year, with 13 victories against one defeat.
Coach David Smothers utilized Gunnin's size to get him playing time on the defensive side of the football.
Gunnin had an opportunity to get involved in stopping the opposition, especially in the playoffs as Addison defeated Shoals Christian, Spring Garden and Hubbertville prior to the semifinal game last week at Pickens County, with a trip to the state championship game at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium waiting for the winner.
This was the deepest run into the postseason by Addison since 2005 when they went all the way to the state championship, winning the blue trophy that year at Legion Field in Birmingham.
Gunnin was a part of the best season the school has experienced in five years with Smothers leading them on the sidelines.
Gunnin was part of a football dynasty. Addison has been to the state playoffs in 15 of the last 17 years, with one state championship, six years of at least 10 victories in a season and a No. 3 ranking by the Alabama Sportswriters Association prior to the start of this year's playoffs.
Counselors and pastors were asked to come to the school Wednesday to console students, teachers and others who were close to Gunnin and his family.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
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