"I believe just like my motivation comes from my son back at home," David Bruton said. "He's my driving force. Ever since he was born, once it became a reality, it's just been him who makes me go 110-percent, who makes me work on something. I see his pictures every morning. I speak to him every night. He's just been somebody I thank God for, and he's been my true motivation."
The path to success for Bruton never came easy out of Miamisburg High School in Ohio, as he was a three-star recruit and ranked in the 22nd overall at his position, safety. Since he arrived at Notre Dame with still a great deal to prove, Bruton made a name for himself on special teams as a gunner.
When asked if being triumphant as a gunner required a great deal of desire, Bruton quickly knew the answer. "I believe so," he said. "I've always prided myself with special teams. It was my first chance to be out on the field and it was a chance for me to showcase my abilities. As I got older, I got a little more confident, a little more swagger about me. I feel like I can go out there and out-run anybody."
Excelling at special teams didn't only require speed, however, as the safety quickly learned. Bruton realized that the best method to be a playmaker on punt defense was to read the returner's actions and movements. "The punt returner basically tells me where I'm going to go, and how I should pace myself," Bruton said. "Just to see his hands moving when the ball is about to reach his pocket. But generally, I've got to see where the ball is going and kind of get a feel where everything is."
All his reps as a gunner didn't go in vain, much to the delight of the Irish coaching staff, due to the similarities his position as a gunner and a safety playing center field. In both cases Bruton learned to rely on his instincts and decision-making based on quick reads of the motions and breaks of wide receivers and running backs, akin to the movements of punt returners.
When it comes to goals and expectations, the Ohio native doesn't back down from perfection, and expects it out of his teammates as well.
"Everybody on the team should want to win it all," he said. "I know I want to win them all. I don't want to step out onto the field thinking we're going to lose. I refuse to think that way. I've got a pride issue about that. It hurt last year. Just losing, everybody on the team should take it personally and trying not to let that happen."
Coming into his senior season, Bruton was chosen as one of the three captains, and is the top returning tackler on the 2008 roster with 85 knockdowns. His playmaking ability on special teams was evident last year in the defensive backfield as he picked up three interceptions for the team lead and one forced fumble along with a blocked kick.
Similar to his work ethic and demeanor on the field, Bruton makes sure to leave it all out on the field, as the saying goes. "I feel like I left it all out on the field every time I go out there," he said. "I always give 100-percent. I don't take plays off and I'm always trying to be the best and help the team win in whatever way I can."
This tenacity and determination fits right in with the mold of player that head coach Charlie Weis is striving to find in his players. Following the path of the players who like to, "dive right in," Weis specifically mentioned Bruton as one of them in his media day press conference.
"The same thing is true with David Bruton," Weis said. "These guys, you can't get rid of them. Every time you turn around they're there. They're always there. Okay? Because they can't get enough. I mean, that's the type of guy you want on your team. That's what the really good ones do. The good ones that want to be great, that's what they do."
Weis went on to elaborate, going as far as labeling his senior safety a "freak of nature."
"David Bruton is just a freak of nature," he said. "You know, a guy who I mentioned last year, under 5% body fat, 41 inch vertical jump. In the summer he was raised his squat 95 pounds. He's always finding a way to improve himself. Those three guys did a fine job getting us ready to start the year."
So does Bruton think that he fits the "dive right in" mantra? Ask him and the answer is obvious.
"I go 100-percent in anything, no matter what I'm put in," he said. "Whether it's special teams or on defense. Not taking criticism as something negative, but looking at it as something positive and building upon it, and just showcasing leadership abilities."
Weis isn't the only one taking notice either. Going head to head in practices with Bruton throughout his freshman campaign and now entering his second season, Duval Kamara knows the type of athlete that Bruton is, and what he is capable of.
"David is a really good DB. He's really diverse and his speed is off the charts," Kamara said. "He's one of the faster guys, so David's real good."
Now that Bruton is entering his final season at Notre Dame, he has unquestionably become one of the leaders of the defensive unit, and the team as a whole. For him, the process had its positives and negatives and was a learning experience to maximize his ability.
"It's been an uphill battle," he said. "Freshman and sophomore year, I was kind of soft spoken. Here and then my voice would crack or something like that but now I don't have a problem talking. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I'm going to make sure everybody is wrong on the same page."
The path that lies ahead of the senior incorporates a list of team-oriented and personal goals he plans to accomplish. To remind him, he carries this list with him everywhere he goes.
"I want to win it all," Bruton said. "Help the team do better than what we had last year. For personal goals, I want to win the Thorpe [Award], become an All-American. I have a whole list of those that I have and I carry with me in my wallet everyday."
He clutches on to the list as a memento to call to mind what he is capable of and his full potential. In order to fulfill these ambitions he only has to do one thing — look at his arm.