Nov. 16, 2011
By Bruce Madej
Jarrod Bunch (1987-90) was one of Michigan's toughest fullbacks. The bruising back from Ashtabula, Ohio, not only could block, but his running style sent many defensive players reeling when the inevitable collision took place. He was an imposing figure and the pro scouts loved him.
After his senior season and attending graduate school, Bunch was a first-round pick of the New York Giants in 1991 and the third running back selected in that particular draft. He had the 'eyes' and the instinct to find the hole, hit it quick and then take on the next person. Bunch did not run around tacklers, he took them head on and for the most part he won. It was only a matter of time before the injuries, aches and pains caught up with his 6-2, 250-pound frame.
Four years into his career, enough was enough. The man-to-man battles had taken their toll. Bunch called it quits in the NFL in 1994 after three years with the Giants and one last season with the Los Angeles Raiders.
He returned to New York and attended the Actor's Institute of NYC. In 1995, he started his acting career. To date, he has been the principal performer in more than 30 national commercials and has guest starred in many films and TV shows, including portraying George Foreman in the 1997 HBO Movie 'Only In America: The Don King Story.' The movie won an Emmy for best original film made for TV.
"The Don King Story was my big break and since then, I've worked in about 13 movies and shows," said Bunch from his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. "In fact, just about a month ago, I finished up my last movie 'Slumber Party Slaughter.'"
In the dog-eat-dog world of Hollywood, his background in football has helped immensely. But acting isn't the end all for the 43-year-old Bunch.
Watching game film didn't put him in the limelight; it was the intense training and focus that gave him the fortitude for his successful careers. Training under the guidance of Michigan's strength and conditioning coach Mike Gittleson is what Bunch credits. It not only aided him in his football career, it also helped him through acting school and now has led him to his second career in sports Jiu-Jitsu.
"What I remember most from my days at Michigan was the training and conditioning," said Bunch. "I remember we had 'Lift-A-Mania' or something like that every year.
"Gittleson made it fun with those events and we worked hard."
It was the offense versus the defense in these classic wrestlemania type off-season workout competitions.
"One year we had the 'Mad Hatter' where someone would run to a hat, pull out a paper with an exercise on it, read it then perform it in the allotted time," said Bunch. "If they didn't do it, the group you were with had to do an extra lap, a Michigan Mile, a lap for Notre Dame or something crazy, but it was memorable."
To this day, Bunch still looks like he could play football.
"I have never stopped working out all these years," said Bunch. "I stopped lifting the power stuff where you can do three or four reps and all that heavy stuff, but the workouts at my age just didn't help me anymore. Now I work out differently."
At the age of 38, Bunch decided to try to fight competitively.
"I was working out and received a call asking me if I wanted to fight a MMA (mixed martial arts) fight," said Bunch. "They were going to pay me a lot of money and I was going to fight another former NFL player, and I thought to myself 'I can do that.' Well, he knew Jiu-Jitsu and got me into a choke hold and that was it."
That was also when Bunch decided to train Jiu-Jitsu seriously and changed his workout style.
"You need to be able to move," added Bunch. "I was forced to get on my knees a lot and even though my knees hurt at first, it was like therapy."
Now, Bunch is a true champion in the sport.
"I have been able to win championships at the Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Tournament (the tournament is not associated with the Pan-Am Games) and the Worlds Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu tournaments at white belt, purple, brown. I received my black belt after winning the No Gi worlds last year, so I have not competed in the tournament at black belt yet," added Bunch. "There are competitors from all around the world coming to this event. Because I'm 43, I can compete in an older class with guys over 35, but I don't do that. I still compete in the 18 year old and up division."
Just a few weeks ago, Bunch competed in the invitation-only Abu Dhabi World Championships; this year it was held in London, England. Only 16 men in five different weight classes are invited. Unfortunately, Bunch lost his first-round match. He was leading 6-0 with less than two minutes remaining when he was caught in choke hold.
The Jiu-Jitsu World Championships are held in June every year in Long Beach, Calif. Crowds of more than 5,000 attend the event. Now Bunch will ready himself for that battle and the rest of his career.
Even though Bunch has used his power, style and chiseled good looks to gain notoriety after football, he is now teaming together with his wife to use his education and her marketing and ingenuity. Not only did Bunch graduate from U-M, he was taking graduate school classes before he was drafted by the Giants.
His wife of 13 years, Robin Emtage, created an organic hair product called Silktage from the company Emtage Hair that is now being sold online at www.silktage.com and in California Whole Foods. Silktage will be available at New York Whole Foods stores early 2012.
"I met her at my photo shoot for acting head shots," said Bunch. "This product is her brain child and I am very excited about this."
Bunch also co-owns a full-house production company called 'Generator.'
As for his acting career, Bunch is now up for a part in one of Quentin Tarantino's next films. He knows it is not a sure thing, but if Tarantino wants someone to run through a wall, Jarrod Bunch is the perfect fit.