Waylon Bruce, a senior at Grayson County High School, has changed quite a bit over the past year — physically and on the football field.
Bruce started on offense and defense for the Cougars last season. Where he really wanted to play was running back, which is where he saw playtime as a middle school student.
He couldn’t play there at last season’s weight of 252 pounds, so he changed his physique – he lost almost 50 pounds.
Instead of blocking and attacking along the line of scrimmage, 18-year-old Bruce now grinds yards as a ground-and-pound fullback and chases runners and receivers as the starting linebacker for the Cougars, who went home with a 4-4 record on Friday against Owensboro.
“I really wanted to lose weight and get into the backfield, and I just took the necessary steps to lose the weight,” said Bruce, who now weighs about 205 pounds.
“It was a very big difference,” said Bruce. “From your blocking task right across from you and then how much influence I have when blocking and I have to run to them and then collapse and make the game, it was different and difficult.”
As far as being a threat in Grayson County’s criminal offense, he says, “I love it.”
By the time Bruce entered the Owensboro game, he had caught 28 carries for 129 yards and a touchdown and 10 passes for 119 yards and two TDs. Defensively, he had 22 tackles, including two tackles for yards lost.
Cougar head coach Bryan Jones said he can’t recall a player moving from the line to backcourt in his coaching career.
“Not that I could imagine, now we’ve had some people that we put on the line out of necessity,” he said. “…It’s usually easier, especially on the defensive end, because he played D-Line and now he’s playing linebacker, to get close to the ball, start further away and step up than it is to be up and move away.”
It was a learning experience for the 5-foot-11 Bruce, who is in his third season at varsity. 12 of his carries came in a 33-14 win over Ohio County last week, Grayson County’s third straight district win.
He had 59 rushing yards and also caught a 15-yard scoring pass from quarterback Hunter Felty.
“We’re trying to be a hard-nosed run-the-ball team, and this is where I’ve been running a little bit harder lately,” Bruce said. “I love the contact and just try to get my way.”
Jones said the more Bruce plays in his new positions, the better he gets.
“He’s still learning, so every time he goes on the field he’s getting a little bit better because he’s getting a better feel for the positions,” Jones said. “Every week I feel like he’s grown on the positions he’s playing and you can tell he’s getting a little bit better every week and can do so much more for us.
“A lot of guys get bumps and bruises over the course of the season and I feel like he’s getting stronger as the season progresses,” Jones added.
Bruce said in junior pro football he played on the line of scrimmage and after running back at Grayson County Middle School he went back to the line at GCHS.
“I really wanted to get back in the backfield and I told the coaches that,” Bruce said.
He said his career as a cougar meant a lot to him and his commitment is evident.
He said the “brotherhood” of the program was special.
“The Brotherhood and how they welcome everyone,” he said of the program. “And as for the coaching team, they’re just very nice people.”
The Cougars finish the regular season on Oct. 28 in Hart County before opening Class 5-A playoff action the following week.