Mkristo eyes NFL, catches quiet Coug practice

MKRISTO BRUCE, gearing up for an individual workout with the Seattle Seahawks next week, stopped by one of the Cougars' recent spring practices and was startled at how quiet the proceedings were. Then it dawned on him: Two of the loudest voices ever to set foot on campus are no longer in the fold.

"I thought I heard crickets," Bruce joked Wednesday, midway through his four-hour-a-day workout routine at Bohler Gym with fellow NFL aspirants Jason Hill, Eric Frampton, Steve Dildine and Don Turner. "It was a little quiet out there without me and Coach Akey."

The File On
Renton, Wash.

Defensive end

6-6 1/2, 270 pounds

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

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

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.

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

His first name is Swahili for "Christian."

Bruce, one of the most prolific sack-masters in WSU history, also was a legendary vocalist. He worked hard to inspire –- or aggravate -– teammates, depending which side of the ball they were on. Robb Akey, the former WSU defensive coordinator who is now the head coach at Idaho, married a gravely voice with a high-octane personality for great sideline theater.

Bruce, who received his bachelor's degree in early December, is back in Pullman after spending most of the winter in California, where his agent oversaw preparations for the NFL Combine in February.

"The scouts like my body type, but want me to run faster," said Bruce, who has added 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-6 ½ frame since the Apple Cup and now tips the scales at 270. "I'm not going to run a 4.5, but hopefully my game film will speak for itself – I'm a football player."

A week before the combine, Bruce was in the hospital with a stomach virus and his numbers in Indianapolis reflected the loss in weight and energy. Some pundits subsequently lowered his draft projection from between the fourth-and-seventh rounds down to free agent status.

He rebounded well at the Pro Day in Pullman on March 8, when scouts from a dozen NFL teams put 10 Cougar seniors through the paces.

Though performance stats weren't shared, sources near the action said Bruce ran the 40 in 4.9 seconds –- slower than his goal of 4.7 but dramatically better than his 5.1 at the combine. He also was reported to have turned in an 8-foot-11-inch broad jump -- five inches better than his mark at Indy. And his 33-inch vertical jump was four inches better than his combine effort.

NFL scouts and coaches he talked with at the combine and at the East-West Shrine Game had seen his game films. "That's a good sign," Bruce said. He noted that almost everyone brought up last season's game at Stanford, in which Bruce posted a record five sacks. "They all laughed when they mentioned it –- they wanted to know if anybody was actually assigned to block me."

Bruce, a product of Liberty High in Renton, will return to his old stomping grounds April 13 for a private workout with the Seahawks. "I grew up rooting for the Seahawks, so it's a real honor to be invited over," he said.

The next several weeks will be notable for Bruce. Whether drafted or through free agency, he'll be headed to an NFL camp. His fiancé Evelyn will be graduating from WSU with a degree in interior design. And their son, Mkristo Jr., will celebrate his second birthday.

Bruce said he hasn't paid attention to the speculation about where he'll end up. "I'm staying focused on getting faster and quicker. I'll just wait and see. Where God wants me to go, I'll go."


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