In high school football to be successful you don't always have to be 6-foot-5 and 240-pounds, yeah it may help you draw the college offers or be dominant, but in Kansas there are a lot of undersized players making plays every Friday night. One of those players is located in the southeast corner of the state in Altamont at Labette County High School in senior linebacker Rogan Bruce.
You probably haven't heard of him because he isn't a big-time college prospect and he is barely all of 5-foot-10 and 170-175 pounds. Bruce has proved that size hasn't mattered for him to produce big on Friday nights in high school football as he had 162 tackles last fall to rank first among juniors in Kansas at all levels. So far this season he has followed that up registering 54 tackles over the first four games from his linebacker spot, which currently ranks second in 4A-I. Last season Bruce was an All-SEK league first team linebacker and All-Area first team linebacker from Craw-Kan.
There's a reason for Bruce's success on Friday night. It's called the weight room and dedication. Being undersized, he relies heavily on his strength. He also doesn't even see himself as undersized and told us its just a mindset. Undersized or not undersized, he can definitely play high school football. He cleaned 295 pounds last December as a junior and benches 270 pounds. He shows his toughness as he is also a wrestler and went 31-10 last season as a junior.
What really grabbed our attention aside from him being the top returning tackler in Kansas from 2016 and head coach Sean Price telling us he was the hardest worker he's had in the program is something Bruce did right before the football season started. Bruce won a team challenge this summer as the captain of the winning team was to get a brand new pair of football cleats. Price messaged Bruce to ask him what size of cleats and Bruce messaged back saying he wanted to give them to someone more deserving. Bruce would then go on to give his cleats to another player who had been wearing the same worn out pair of cleats for four years. It goes to show you what type of young man that Mr. Bruce is.
"These are the types of young people we work with at LCHS. Made this old coach choke up but I am so proud." Price said back in mid August.
For now its all about Bruce and his senior season with the Grizzlies. Last season they made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Grizzlies have relied offensively on junior quarterback Easton Dean who has over 800 yards and 13 touchdowns in the Grizzlies 3-1 start. T.J. Mayhue also has 439 yards on the ground with seven scores. Tanner Russell and Kale Irwin each have three touchdown receptions and are both over 200 yards receiving. Quiency Jones has also been big for the Grizzlies defense with 42 tackles to rank second on the team to Bruce.
Labette County will be back in action this Friday night as they host SEK league rival Fort Scott. Last year LCHS won 43-42. The Tigers are much imrpoved from last year and enter the game with a 3-1 mark after dropping a 45-19 contest to Pittsburg last Friday. We caught up with the senior linebacker below in the latest edition of Faces in Kansas.
Special thanks to Labette Bank for powering all of Southeast Kansas coverage this season. Be sure to nominate the Labette Bank Athlete of the Month from the Southeast Kansas area by emailing Chet Kuplen at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also special thanks to Stockyards Travel Plaza in Parsons and Bartlett Co-Op for powering 4A-I coverage with Sports in Kansas
Q&A w/ Bruce
How did you get involved in football?
I started playing in third grade and have loved it ever since.
What are your goals this season?
My goals are to be the best leader I can be, win an SEK League and District title, and make a run in the playoffs.
What makes you such a force on defense?
Coach Burk always does a great job of making sure we are prepared and stay disciplined. The guys on the defensive line have done a great job and that has made my job easy.
Favorite thing about football?
I love the intensity and physicality of the game as well as the brotherhoods that are formed
What has it been like with Coach Price being the coach at LCHS?
I couldn't ask for a better coach. He is completely committed to his job and because of that he has changed the culture here at LC. To him it's not just about being a great football player, he wants to help us become great men, and have the tools to be successful in life
How would you describe your guys start so far?
I think we have played pretty well through the first four weeks, but there is definitely still room to improve.
What has the town been like after you guys made the playoffs last year for the first time in seven years?
Our community support is amazing, so they've been very excited to see us do well this season.
Can you guys make a run in the playoffs again this year?
Absolutely. We are a very good team, and I feel that if we keep our composure and play to our potential, we can compete with any team we'll play.
Who are other key playmakers on your team this year?
On offense Easton Dean, Tj Mayhue, Owyn Back, Tanner Russell, Kale Irwin, and Josiah Rexwinkle all have the ability to make a big play at any moment. Defensively, Quiency Jones and Braden Baker tear it up on the defensive line, and Keshaun Anderson and Caleb Hentzen lock down the secondary.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better?
We all took at leadership class and went through a boot camp to teach us discipline. Throughout the summer we completed a lot of team building exercises to strengthen chemistry among each other as well as attending camps and lifting daily.
What’s it like to be an undersized player?
I don't like to think about myself as undersized because it is all a mindset. It really helps me to focus on my technique, and I use that to my advantage.
Plans at the next level, seeing any interest?
I would love to play at the collegiate level. I have had a little interest, but nothing definitive yet.
Do you play any other sports?
Besides football I also wrestle and run track.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
I love to do anything outdoors, especially hunting and riding dirt bikes.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I want to be a history teacher and hopefully one day a coach.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you?
My favorite subject is history. As a student I am a perfectionist; I'm not satisfied unless I have an A.
Who is your role model?
My parents are definitely my role model. They taught me that with the right attitude and a good work ethic, you can accomplish anything.
Best place to eat in Altamont or the surrounding area?
The Corner Store, they have great food and great service all day, everyday.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
That I knocked out my front four teeth playing basketball and now have false teeth.