Friday Night Hero: Salisbury's Chris Bruce
By Bret Strelow
Senior linebacker Chris Bruce has moved all over the field, even playing an entire game at tackle.
An injury to quarterback John Knox nearly had a trickle-down effect on Salisbury’s most versatile defender.
Fellow linebacker Linares Pagan is a backup quarterback, and he took snaps to begin the second half of the Hornets’ 41-21 victory against Central Davidson on Friday.
Head coach Joe Pinyan considered giving Pagan a break from double duty by putting Bruce in a different spot, shifting Joseph Jones to linebacker and inserting Ike Whitaker on the defensive line.
“Me personally, I like linebacker,” Bruce said. “It’s crazy; I see more action. But anything that helps the team, I’m ready to do it.
“I love the guys backing me up and feel when I move to another position that my backup is going to come in and do what he has to do.”
Bruce has 25 tackles, including 12 solo stops, two hits for a loss and one sack, in Salisbury’s last three games.
The Hornets followed a 10-7 loss to Davie County with their CCC opener against West Davidson, and Bruce showed his unselfishness in a 35-0 shutout. His role as a team captain took on added significance prior to the Central Davidson game.
About 15 players, including five defensive starters, showed up late and were benched for one quarter. The Hornets made a goalline stand to end the first half and took a shutout into the fourth quarter.
“Friday, our captains stood tall in a situation that wasn’t all that pretty,” Pinyan said. “They realized they had a job to get done, and he got it done.
“We say he’s playing steady, but he’s getting better and better each week. He’s really giving us that depth we need at different positions. We’re not hesitant to move him down, move him out.”
Salisbury players vote on captains, and Pinyan said Bruce earned respect while lifting weights in a group with Whitaker and Kiontae Rankin this spring.
Bruce wanted to play linebacker early in his Salisbury career, and the coaches moved him to the hybrid “Hornet” position.
He returned to linebacker and has excelled there this season, but his athleticism was needed on the defensive line against West Davidson.
“A lot of kids would turn their nose up,” Pinyan said. “You’ve played all year as a linebacker and that’s where you want to play, but the first conference game we say you’ll play the whole game with a hand on the ground.”
Pinyan and defensive coordinator Ryan Crowder were pleased with how Bruce performed against the Green Dragons.
“He likes linebacker the best, and he’s pretty good it,” Crowder said. “He’s a pretty quick player, and that’s one of the advantages to having him on the defensive line. He’s quicker than everybody across from him.”
Bruce returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown earlier this season against East Rowan, but he’s still looking for his first varsity interception.
The play that stands out in his mind occurred late last season. Bruce broke on a ball thrown in the middle of the field and dropped a potential pick.
“I guess my hands had grease on them,” Bruce said with a laugh. “It hit me right in my hands and fell out. I said I’d probably never get a chance like that again.
“I’m going to get one, though, before this season lets up.”