Bruce, fresh off best game, has eyes on Cougs

MKRISTO BRUCE, one of the great defenders in WSU history, turned in his best outing of the NFL pre-season on Thursday and now sits on pins and needles over the weekend as he awaits the Miami Dolphins' cut down to 53 players. But he told CF.C today that all his attention for several hours Saturday will be on Washington State's nationally televised battle at Wisconsin.

"I'm definitely going to be watching the game," Mkristo Bruce said of the 12:30 PT kickoff between the Cougars and No. 7-ranked Badgers. "I really want to see all my old teammates do well. Hopefully they'll come out of there with a W. It would be great for the program and get more fans jumping on the bandwagon."

As for the Dolphins, he's matter-of-fact.

"I couldn't do anything right in the first couple of games -- I was just so excited to be here that I wasn't focused. Every kid dreams about playing in the NFL. I've been waiting my whole life for this and was just too excited. Last night, though, was a lot of fun. I had six tackles and rotated in from the first quarter through the fourth."

The Dolphins, who kickoff the regular season next weekend, lost the game 7-0 to New Orleans, but Bruce had a chance to catch up with fellow Cougar Jason David, a Saints cornerback. In a previous game, against Tampa Bay, he came to the line of scrimmage and was greeted on the other side by a "Hey, Bruce." It was former Cougar center Nick Mihlhauser.

Bruce (6-6, 270) said the transition to the NFL has been more mental than physical. "Everyone here is big, fast and strong, so the mental aspects of the game are where people set themselves apart. In college, there's a disparity in athleticism -- you can can sometimes get by purely on physical skills. The NFL is definitely a more mental game."

Bruce, a product of Liberty High in Renton, is playing what the Dolphins call the "jack" position -- a combination defensive end and outside linebacker.

He is listed at No. 3 on the depth chart behind All-Pro Jason Taylor and third-year pro Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. Bruce, who bears a resemblance to Taylor, has been dubbed "Little JT" by teammates.

The two-time All-Pac-10 choice and 2006 second-team All-American said Cougar head coach Bill Doba, former WSU defensive coordinator Robb Akey and former standout WSU defensive end Isaac Brown offered him invaluable support, via telephone, throughout training camp.

"It's been very demanding, physically and mentally," he said. "Two practices a day, meetings, all day everyday. It's especially brutal for rookies, particularly for free agents."

As for making the team, Bruce said he's had no indications one way or another from Miami coaches. However, back in the spring, Miami general manager Randy Mueller was quoted in a local paper as saying as free agents go, Bruce was a legitimate contender for the squad.

"The NFL is very much a business," Bruce said. "If you're not developing, if you're not performing everyday, you're out. That's a different dynamic than college ball, where you know you have four or five years to develop, just like every other guy in the lockerroom."

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