RAVENEL, S.C. (WCSC) - Max Wunsche, 22, hasn’t played football since middle school, but his ability to throw a pigskin through a small hole on Saturday afternoon in front of more than 70,000 people could go a long way toward helping him achieve a dream.
The former student at Ashley Ridge High School will participate in the Dr. Pepper tuition giveaway at halftime of the SEC Championship game when he’ll have a chance to win $100,000 to put toward his veterinary school tuition.
Three weeks ago, he got a call from Dr. Pepper officials, who told him he was a finalist.
“I was really shocked because I knew the number of people that applied," he said. "It’s just a really great opportunity to come across. I didn’t have a bunch to say to be honest. I was just super grateful and super happy.”
A senior at Clemson, he wants to continue on to veterinary school, a cost that can soar well into the six digits. He grew up tending to animals on a farm where he grew up in Ravenel, and wants to remain true to his roots as a farm vet.
His passion for animals blossomed when he took a trip to South Africa through the Clemson Honors College.
“Essentially it was just a really cool program I found online like a pre-vet internship type thing,” he said. “There were many aspects to that, but probably one of the bigger aspects was the humanitarian side just going out to the local villages and helping the local people with their animals.”
Those same animals, as well as his horse back in Ravenel, played a key role in his competition submission video. Wunsche impressively lassos a bottle of Dr. Pepper, then used some editing magic to bring it back to him.
“I tried it at first and I feel like if I had a legit lasso that was sturdier it could have worked but the rope I had just was not working,” he said. “I got close a few times and then realized I needed to do some handy camera work there.”
He has already received plenty of support from both Clemson and those in the Lowcountry. The Tigers and the Ashley Ridge High School athletics department gave him footballs to practice his skills.
The competition has become a bit of an internet sensation over the years, which has included much debate as to how to win. Competitors take the balls out of a bin, then throw them through a hole inside a large Dr. Pepper can. Some have tossed the balls like a quarterback while others shuffle or shove them forward in an attempt for greater accuracy.
He’ll have 30 seconds to try and throw as many balls as he can through the hole while competing against three other people. If he finishes second, Wunsche would still receive $25,000.
“I’ve been watching a lot of youtube videos of previous competitions and everything," he said. "I’ve only seen one person throw it like I’m essentially going to throw it. It’s basically just like a shuffle pass. There are a lot of chest pass type things. Most people have the barrel of balls to their right and then they take it and shove it with their chest but with me I’m going to have it on my left side, grab two balls with both hands at one time and then just shuffle pass it.”
Wunsche initially set up an apparatus with PVC pipe to practice but found it wasn’t holding up too well against the hour or two he has been shuffling balls every day in preparation. Then he built a portable wooden structure and has been honing his skills.
As for the game itself, Wunsche is taking the Bulldogs Saturday because he likes a good underdog story.
“Either way it’s an incredible opportunity and it’s going to be a heck of a game,” he said. “The Lowcountry made me who I am and got me to this opportunity so it’s really cool.”
The game starts at 4 p.m. Saturday on CBS.