Mkristo Bruce's diary: Countdown to the draft

REDONDO BEACH -- Hello from sunny California, Coug fans. After graduating from WSU on Dec. 9, my agent flew me down here, where I've been working hard ever since in my quest to take the Cougar Nation of Domination to the NFL. Right now it sounds like scouts see me going somewhere between the second and fourth rounds of April's draft. But -- BUT -- I have a huge opportunity to improve my standing.

The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is in less than two weeks. Me and 300 other college players with pro aspirations -- including my Cougar buds Jason Hill, Tyron Brackenridge and Eric Frampton -- have been invited to this big event so we can be tested, evaluated, poked and prodded by NFL scouts and coaches. How I do there will significantly influence where I'll be taken in the draft. A big-time performance, with a 40 time of 4.7 seconds, is my goal.

The File On
MKRISTO BRUCE
HOMETOWN:
Renton, Wash.

POSITION:
Defensive end

SIZE:
6-6, 263 pounds

CHOSE WSU OVER:
Had no other Division I offers. Was discovered by Mike Price and Bill Doba at WSU's annual summer camp for high schoolers.

WSU CAREER:
Started 34 consecutive and played in 46 straight. First-team all-conference in 2005 and 2006. Second-team All-American in 2006.

STATS:
No. 3, behind former teammate D.D. Acholonu and legendary DeWayne Patterson, on WSU's all-time sacks list with 29.5. Had 134 total tackles over the last two seasons.

PREP CAREER:
As senior at Liberty High he was a first-team all-league linebacker and second-team all-league at quarterback. He also starred in basketball and track.

DID YOU KNOW?
His first name is Swahili for "Christian."

Scouts like my athleticism and height, but think I'm light for an end. So my work down here is focused on gaining the pounds without losing the speed. And I've gotta tell you, I'm headed in the right direction. When we ended our season in November, I weighed 252 pounds. I'm now at 263 -- and running faster! Putting on weight, given my 6-6 frame, isn't that big a deal. I could add another 20 or 30 pounds without too much problem. What the pros want to know is whether I can carry more weight without hurting agility and speed.

I'm going to convince them that this is one Cougar they want prowling in their trenches. I'm working out like Charles Atlas and eating some serious quantities of great food. And I must say, it's a lot easier to eat well when an agent is picking up the tab than when you're forced to get by on the small stipend the NCAA dictates for college ballplayers. But that's another story.

My day starts at 7:30 a.m., with a bacon-cheese-and-green pepper omelet, plus wheat toast and grape jelly, on the table at 8. Then it's off to the gym with four other guys my agent signed. We work out under the watchful eyes of six trainers for about three hours and then head for lunch and a little rest before going back to the gym for another 2 1/2 to three hours. Strength, agility, burst, cardio -- we're doing everything. After that second workout, we eat like Henry the VIII and then just chill. Other than a hip bruise picked up in the East-East Shrine Game, I'm feeling great.

One of the guys working out with me is James Finley. That name may ring a bell because he was very interested in the Cougs coming out of high school. He ended up at a JC for two years and then played for Oregon the last two seasons. I had to have some words with him our first day together, because in our sweet win over the Ducks in October he did a crack-back block on me and by the time I got up to punish him for his misdeed he was long gone. Given his two unfortunate afflictions -- he's a receiver and he's a Duck -- he's actually a pretty good dude. The other guys working out with us are from Kansas State, Nebraska and Northwestern.

I MUST ADMIT I kinda like the fact the wrap on me is that I'm not heavy enough. I was only 210 pounds my senior year at Liberty High, so no colleges gave me the time of day -- except of course for Bill Doba, Mike Price and the Fightin' Cougs of Washington State. There was no internet buzz about me at all. The only notable mention was a Cougfan.com article, headlined STEAL OF A DEAL, that said I had "nitro-burnin' agility" and a great first name.

Proving to people that I have what it takes is a great motivator. When I was a kid, I was a bit rambunctious and a class clown -- people told my mom I wouldn't amount to anything. Both of us, by the way, were beaming with pride when I completed my bachelor's degree two weeks before Christmas.

You could say I'm a big kid with a little man's mentality. Telling me I can't do something or that I'm not-enough-this-or-that is like pouring adrenaline in my veins.

One of the challenges in my quest for a career in the NFL has nothing to do with working out. It's being away from my fiancé Evelyn and our precious 2-year-old son, Mkristo Jr. Evelyn will have her degree wrapped up in May and then we'll all be together again. They came down here three weeks ago and we went to Disneyland. We'd been in the place just a few minutes when we hear "Hey Mkristo, Go Cougs!" We look over and there are these people wearing Wazzu shirts, waving. I just love that about the Cougar Nation. We're one big family. Once a Coug, always a Coug. I'll never forget my time in Pullman. The place is magical.

All right, fellow Cougs. It's time to sign off. I've loved writing these diaries over the last two years and will try to crank up a few more as I work my way toward training camp in July. If you have any questions, just toss them up on the message board and I'll try to answer them in my next diary.

Doing my part to spread the gospel of
THE COUGAR NATION OF DOMINATION,
Your Friend Mkristo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mkristo Bruce, one of the most prolific sack masters in WSU history, capped his college career this past season by being named first-team All-Pac-10 and second-team AP and Walter Camp All-American. The one-time quarterback from Renton started 34 consecutive games at defensive end for WSU. He wrote diaries for CF.C in the summers of 2005 and 2006, graciously volunteering to give readers a window on the world of pre-season football preparations. He plans to continue writing periodic entries about his journey to the NFL.


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