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Friday, August 17, 2012 - Page updated at 10:00 p.m.
Washington receiver Cody Bruns gets another shot at senior season
By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist
The first thing you notice about Cody Bruns this summer is his laugh. It comes easily and often, the kind of infectious, uplifting laugh that can cut through a long, hot summer training camp.
And then you notice the plays. Bruns, a senior receiver, is running with the No. 1s again. He's catching passes again, outrunning cornerbacks, doing all the things he's been doing since he set a state record for receptions at Prosser High School.
"It seems like he makes a play every day," quarterback Keith Price said after a recent practice. "He's continued to grow. I'm really proud of Cody."
Bruns thought he could play last season. Thought that, for a few hours every day, he could put aside the pain of losing his father Bucky, catching passes and cracking blocks with his usual efficiency and fury, dedicating the season to him.
Cody Bruns' senior season was going to be a living memorial to Bucky Bruns, who died last summer after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
But early in training camp, it became clear to him and his coaches that he couldn't concentrate the way he always had. He couldn't devote the time he needed to compete. There was too much going on, in his head and his heart.
Bruns met with coach Steve Sarkisian. They constructed a plan that made sense, giving him time to properly grieve and slowly return to football.
"It was about him. It wasn't about us," Sarkisian said. "Anytime you have that type of loss personally that's hard. I just wanted to ensure for Cody that his senior season was one that minimized the distractions and that he could enjoy and have a great experience. I just felt like it was the right thing to do.
"On top of that, we benefited from it as a football program. We got a senior leader on a receiving corps that's relatively young. To have his leadership to go along with James Johnson is big for us."
Sarkisian asked Bruns to redshirt during the 2011 season, play on the scout team and return, with the prospect of more games, more downs, more catches and a lot more laughs.
"I just wasn't mentally with it last year," Bruns said. "I didn't feel I could play to the level where I needed to play at. As camp wore on, I knew I needed some time to adjust. Me and Sark have a good relationship. I knew he would do what was best for the team and myself. I just put what would happen to me in his hands."
Every successful college program has players like Bruns. Guys who get it. Mature, versatile, selfless players, who do whatever is asked of them, whether it's scout team, special teams or running dangerous crossing routes, knowing they're going to get clocked with their catches.
"He's very important to our program," Price said. "Cody's a great guy and a great talent. He can do it all. He ... man, words can't say enough to describe Cody."
Price was one of the many teammates Bruns leaned on as he grieved the loss of his father and decided what to do with his season.
"They became like my family, like my second family away from home," Bruns said. "They were just there. Picking me up. Keeping me around them. That goes a long way."
The scout team is maybe the least glamorous place in sports. There are no Saturdays in the sun, only weekdays on the periphery. Scout team is a humbling place to play.
But at the end of the year Bruns was awarded the Bob Jarvis Offensive Scout of the Year award. It was the kind of honor that would have meant as much to his father as a Heisman Trophy. It was a tribute to his son's perseverance, courage, character and love of the game.
"Being on the scout team with guys four years younger than you is a humbling experience," said Bruns, who celebrated his 23rd birthday this week. "Running down on scout kickoff, getting your clock rung every day. It was different, definitely.
"I've always been in the mix since I got here. Being on the scout team and getting all the grunt work as an older guy, it was tough. But it definitely helped me become the player I am. And it helped me appreciate the time I get now with the No. 1 guys. It was a learning experience, and in the end it was a good experience."
Bruns has been given this one last season at Washington. This season back in the mix. The senior season he deserves.
"I wake up every morning knowing this is my last chance," he said.
"Walking down from the dorms, my back's always a little sore from sleeping on those dorm beds, but I even appreciate that. I'm going to look back on all of this and think, 'I can't believe I got to do this.' You've got to enjoy the whole process."
Bruns laughed again, one of the most satisfying sounds of this summer.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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