ZEELAND, Mich. (BVM) — Cebe Hunderman continues to excel on the football field as Zeeland East’s top running back this fall. While he has turned out to be just as, if not more, successful than many of his peers, it wasn’t always a certainty that would be the case.
Hunderman’s football career began in fifth grade, growing a love for the sport while playing during recess. Growing up in Michigan, one of his favorite players to idolize was Detroit Lions’ legend Barry Sanders, as the running back looked to model his game after the former star.
In addition to speed and quick feet, Hunderman is also known for physical and mental toughness. Part of that was developed through his childhood prior to playing football.
Hunderman was born in the Republic of the Congo, where growing up was incredibly difficult. Hunderman’s mother passed away at child birth, while his father was killed in the Second Congo War. The remainder of his family other than one sibling, Vincent, also died in the war.
As the older brother, Vincent raised Cebe in his early years. The two traveled across Central Africa through several refugee camps, looking for a way out of the danger the war brought. Fortunately for Cebe, he has very faint memories of the time since he was just a young kid.
“I have not been back yet and don’t remember too much besides the hot days and walking to school,” Cebe said. “I was so young that I wasn’t there for that much.”
Finally, by the time Cebe was 7, the brothers were picked up by Bethany Christian Services and taken to the United States.
Once the brothers got to America, things were still not always easy. Unfamiliar with the English language, Cebe had a difficult time communicating when he first went to public school in third grade. Meanwhile, outside of the classroom, Cebe and Vincent continued jumping around to different foster homes, and were even separated at times.
“They were looking for kids to come to America and they chose me and my brother,” Cebe said. “We came to Michigan and lived together for two or three years. We started separating and it felt weird, but over time I got used to it.
“I was very excited but it was very different than back home. It was hard to understand what people were saying. It didn’t take me too long to get it when I went to school.”
Over a year later, the brothers finally found their home after being adopted by Zeeland, Michigan couple Marianne and Chad Hunderman. Although adapting was still a challenge at first, Cebe finally had a new opportunity, and is thankful for his parents every single day.
“They’ve made a big impact, I’m very thankful they adopted me,” Cebe said about his parents. “I was very glad to find a home. My parents are with me through everything, they support me through everything I do and want the best for me.”
With his home set, Cebe now had an opportunity to compete in the sport he loves. While his first year of football was a learning curve, he helped lead his youth team to an undefeated season in sixth grade. Continuing to find success in seventh and eighth grade, Cebe had no doubt he would continue with the sport in high school.
“As I kept learning and got better, I realized I could hopefully play at the next level if I kept working hard at it,” Cebe noted.
As Cebe began at Zeeland East, his freshman year was again a learning experience, bouncing between JV and varsity. By sophomore year, however, the running back’s career began to take off.
“I think that was the best year of my high school career,” Cebe said. “I started playing varsity and got playing time.”
With Covid impacting Cebe’s junior year, the Chix were limited to a handful of games, but he and the rest of the Zeeland East squad have come back strong this fall. With a new head coach and young team, the Chix have only lost a couple of games and have an eye towards the postseason.
“It’s been pretty good,” Cebe added. “I’m very excited with what we could do here. I was hoping we could make the playoffs and it looks like if we keep working hard, we will be able to. My goal is to do what’s best for the team. Whether I need to play running back or slot receiver, I will do that.”
While Cebe finishes out his senior football season, he is also looking towards his life post-high school. He hopes to go to school and perhaps someday become an auto mechanic, all while continuing his football career.
“Hopefully I could play football while doing that,” Cebe said. “I’m still looking around. It would be awesome to play at the next level. If I do play at the next level, I will have to get better at everything, but I would be excited to make it on a team.”
Cebe’s future continues to look bright, and playing college football somewhere would add another chapter to a truly impressive success story already. Although he has faced plenty of hardships in his life, Cebe has done it all with a positive attitude and a smile on his face. His story is a true inspiration, and will be seen as such for many years to come.
“It’s always better on the other side,” Cebe said. “Right now it could be bad, but in the future it’s going to be better. I stay positive, there’s just always something to be happy about.”