The senior offensive lineman from Clarksville, Tenn. carries a 39-game consecutive starts streak into the final game of his career, the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27. A state champion wrestler in high school, Bruno's parents were both varsity athletes at Austin Peay. The NFL prospect is known for pancake blocks – and settled a Twitter debate about the merits of waffles vs. pancakes with a vote for …
In middle school I got cut from baseball and soccer
. But in wrestling you couldn't get cut, so I was like, "I guess I'm a wrestler."
I was a good goalkeeper in soccer, so I don't know why they cut me
. I asked me coach after tryouts, "How did it go?" and he said, "You did well. You'll make the team." Then he cut me.
I was just a sixth grader
, so that might have had something to do with it.
The thing I love about wrestling
is it's just you in there. I love that singularity of wrestling. There's no one to blame. What you get out of it is what you put into it. I've always loved that.
I don't have a favorite sport at this point
. They're all so similar if you think about it; football, judo, wresting, those are my three.
Being an offensive lineman is very similar to wrestling and judo
. It all goes hand in hand.
The hardest thing for me adjusting to football
was the whole team thing. I'd always been so focused on my own success as a wrestler. Being good at setting goals helped me.
I didn't know if I'd ever play here
, but I set little goals and eventually it all happened. And then I'm asked to be a leader at some point, and I've never had to lead others. I've just been doing my own thing. It has been a whole dynamic to learn here.
I remember making career goals:
I want someone to say I'm an All-SEC-caliber player. I want a shot at the NFL. I want to start [at Vanderbilt] for two years. The short-term goals were things like whenever we have scrimmages, I wanted to be one of the top eight lineman grades. Then it was top five, and then I wanted to start. Once I was starting, I never wanted to miss a practice.
I feel like I've accomplished a lot more than I thought I would
. You want to be realistic with yourself when you're young. I've definitely shot high and ended up high.
My consecutive games streak means everything to me
. That's a personal thing to me. I've never missed a practice since I've been here, either. I want to be dependable. I want to be that guy where everyone knows what they're getting. I feel like that's the worst thing, when you have an extremely good player and you don't know if he'll show up that day. With me, you know who you're getting. And you're getting him.
When I was getting recruited, I had come to peace that Vanderbilt or Tennessee didn't recruit me
. But then Coach Mason offered me and I was like, wow. Having come full circle at the end of it, after these five years of hard work, there's no place I'd rather be.
At Vanderbilt, we play the best on Saturdays, but we also compete with the best Sunday through Friday academically
. If you can stick through this thing, it just changes you. I've matured so much in a short amount of time. The man I've become is so different. I'm very confident in whatever I'll be doing after this.
Now that I'm here at the end of my college experience
, I'm just thinking how much I'm set up compared to other people my age. I feel very blessed to be in this situation.
Every athlete has low points in college
. The worst thing about mine was I didn't really have a supportive resource from a guy that had been through it before. I was trying to find my way through. Now I end up as the older guy and I see these younger guys with their struggles like everyone has. Being away from home, learning this extreme playbook that is far out of left field from anything you'll deal with in high school. I'm able to be a resource for them.
When I came to college, I knew what I wanted to do
– work in journalism, communications, stuff like that. I'm good at talking. So, I'm a communications major. I love it.
I would love to be a sports commentator
. I feel like I have a lot of insight I'm able to express. Being a color commentator would be cool.
I like writing. I just write my thoughts down sometimes
. That helps me get through a bunch of stuff. It's like a journal. I play a lot of video games. I just walked to the bookstore and found three books I liked.
My parents didn't force me to do anything.
Everything I did was because I wanted to. Baseball, two years of dance class, golf, tennis. The only rule was do your best, and don't quit. Stick through the whole thing. Looking back at it now, they were both successful college athletes, and most people get those helicopter parents who are always interfering, but my parents didn't do that. They were focused on raising a good son first. They just wanted a good family and to be happy, and athletics was just a part of that.
At this moment I think pancakes are better than waffles
. It's a hard choice. I feel like pancakes work better with strawberries and other toppings. But I don't cook. Absolutely not. I should probably learn how. They don't teach you that at Vanderbilt. I'll have to YouTube that.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss