The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 12, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: In the mind of WVU’s Isaiah Bruce

MORGANTOWN — Too often we view the game of football from the outside in, watch the players play the game and judge the results without ever realizing what it was that got them to that point. The game, you see, is the easy part, the enjoyable part.

So let us today take a ride inside the mind of one player, a young player named Isaiah Bruce, a linebacker with a chance to win a West Virginia University starting job in his redshirt freshman year.

Think of what is going on within his mind, the thoughts and the dreams — yes, dreams, real ones — as he learns a new defense and is caught in the incredibly complicated emotional state that forces someone who is looking for personal accomplishments yet must do it in a team setting.

Bruce is a 6-foot-1, 226-pound linebacker out of Providence High in Jacksonville, Fla., caught up in a position battle with Shaq Petteway, a 6-foot, 200-pound linebacker out of Steubenville, Ohio.

“I think I’m pretty good,” Bruce admitted without coaxing, “and if I’m fighting for a position with Shaq, the defense can only be good. Competing for a job is good. The competition being so hard, it makes the defense that much better.”

But there is an inherent situation that grows out of competition on a team. Each of the two players wants to start. They are teammates, must pull for each other, yet deep down there somewhere is this little evil voice telling them that they wouldn’t mind if their competitor had a bad play or two.

Or does it work that way?

“We’re always pushing each other,” Bruce said. “You want everyone to play, but you want your playing time, too. Everyone wants to start.”

Starting being the ultimate goal, a confirmation of your belief in yourself and a reward for the hard work you put in, magnifies each situation on each football team into a daily test of will and skill.

You become judgmental of your play, maybe even beyond the point the coach is judgmental.

“In the moment, you made a good play, you are feeling good about yourself, but you can’t live on what I just did because coaches are not looking at what you just did. They are looking at what you can do the next play,” Bruce said.

So when you make a good play you are momentarily thrilled, but must put it behind you.

And a bad play, miss a tackle, blitz through the wrong hole, be in the wrong coverage — there is so much that can and often will go wrong — and there’s nowhere to hide, not on the field at the moment or in the film room.

“A bad play stays in your head a lot more,” Bruce said, noting that it is human nature to remember the mistakes far longer than the good plays.

Sometimes it reaches the point where you take it home with you, take it to bed with you.

You even dream about practice and football.

“I definitely do think a lot about it, especially in my dreams,” Bruce said. “I think about what I need to do in this situation or that because coach

constantly talks about going over it in your mind before the play or meetings. Then when you get on the field it’s just reaction.”


“Not really,” Bruce said. “They are usually good dreams. I’m getting into my gap, doing what I’m supposed to do and making plays.”

 All of this occurs because the journey to reach a starting job in big-time college football, to be realistic in having NFL hopes and aspirations, is a never-ending challenge. Each kid who comes to a major college with a football scholarship has been a high school standout, some even national stars, but he soon finds he is starting at the bottom ... and rightfully so.

But wouldn’t it be so much better to shake it off, as a player probably will as he gets older and more established, less involved in fighting for a job and more secure in his future. Then maybe there will be time when it isn’t always first and foremost in the mind, awake or asleep.

“I redshirted my first year, and at first it was really hard for me. Since I was little I started, I played and contributed all the time,” Bruce said. “When I found out I was going to be redshirted, it was a big blow to me because I didn’t expect it.”

Let us understand that redshirting is a difficult time as you never play a game, which takes away that weekly goal a player uses to drive himself through practices. Because you don’t play, coaches doesn’t have time to coach you other than to push you on the scout team, learning opponents’ plays and tendencies.

You are something of a leper, and it takes a while to understand there is a reason for a redshirt season, and it isn’t because you are not a quality player.

“At first, these people were big ... and fast,” Bruce admitted. “It was a big transition from high school to college. Sitting out that year definitely helped me in the long run.

“Over time I realized it was a lot better for me,” Bruce concluded. “I got bigger. I got faster. I know the defense now. It got easier for me to play at this level.”

And now he could find himself in position to be a four-year starter, or at least a big-time contributor throughout his career.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos