Former Natchez High standout Bruce receives ultimate ‘Yes’
And after three years of hearing “No” Bruce finally received the “Yes” of a lifetime.
Bruce, a former Natchez High School football standout, signed Feb. 10 to play in the Canadian Football League for the Ottawa Redblacks.
But it wasn’t the smoothest journey for the Troy University alumnus.
Bruce made a name for himself on the football field as a quarterback for Natchez High in 2004. By the time he graduated in 2006, Natchez head coach Lance Reed said Bruce was an instrumental part in reviving the Bulldogs’ program.
“He could do everything with the ball,” Reed said. “He was a part of the group that made this program competitive.”
Bruce said his senior year came with a lot of promise.
“I went to very productive camps (over the summer), and my senior year was like the icing on the cake,” Bruce said. “I set some records at Natchez and I was getting looks from a lot of big colleges, but most wanted me to play defensive back, but I didn’t want to play defense.”
Bruce found the right place in Copiah-Lincoln Community College. Though he had other offers, Bruce said he chose to become Co-Lin’s quarterback.
“I figured I’d go to Co-Lin because I wanted to play Division 1 A football, but receivers got hurt and I did a good job (at that position), so they decided to make me a receiver,” Bruce said. “I didn’t take that too well, but it ended up being the best thing that happened to me.”
Bruce hauled in more than 30 catches his freshman year, and in his sophomore year, he led the MACJC in receiving with 53 receptions for 734 yards and seven touchdowns.
Once Bruce graduated in 2008, he got an offer from a Division 1A school he had hoped for.
“I chose Troy (University) because when I went on my visit, I felt at home and I wanted to develop myself there,” he said. “I played two years, won two Sun Belt championships and the New Orleans Bowl.”
Once graduating from Troy in 2011, Bruce, like many athletes, was a victim of the 2011 NFL lockout.
After Bruce noticed he wasn’t going to play football in 2011, he still trained for College Pro Day in 2012.
But still, no offers.
Bruce continued to train, until he received a chance to play arena football in Huntsville, Ala. Though it was a great opportunity, Bruce said he didn’t want to settle for anything less than professional football.
By 2013, Bruce began focusing more of his attention on working a regular job than training.
But Bruce eventually heard about a Canadian Football League tryout in Orlando, Fla., for a new team being brought into the league.
“I drove 10 hours and tried out for the Ottawa Redblacks,” Bruce said. “I get down there and introduced myself to the general manager and the scouts, and gave them my film from college and did well in all my drills. After tryouts, they asked a few guys to stay after, and my name and number was called.
“The general manager said he liked what he saw and would get back with me, but I I didn’t hear anything back. I thought it was an opportunity that wasn’t meant for me. They continued signing people (as time went on), so I didn’t think I was getting a call, so I started preparing for the NFL combine.”
The phone rang on Feb. 7, and Bruce was offered a contract to play for the Redblacks. Bruce said the news took time to settle in.
“It felt so surreal,” he said. “Going to a new team (in the league), it was a great feeling knowing this is the opportunity that I was waiting on.
“I learned to never give up on my dreams, because you never know what’s meant for you,”
Brue said he reports to mini camp on April 7, but until then, he resides in Huntsville steadily preparing to prove he deserves to stay in Ottawa and become part of building another program.