SEATTLE – Before he headed out to help work a Run To Win camp in Seattle with men’s basketball chaplain Mike Rohrbach in the summer of 2011, Washington wide receiver Cody Bruns texted his mom.
“I hope everything is OK.”
Bruns’ father, Bucky, had been hurting for a couple days. Bucky had pancreatic problems back when Cody was in fourth grade, causing doctors to perform a rare Whipple procedure, where the head of the pancreas, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder and the duodenum are removed. He had been all right since.
But, Bucky was feeling the pain again just a few weeks before the Huskies’ 2011 fall camp was to start. He decided not to go to the hospital and tough it out for two days. The second day, Bucky, 60, went to sleep around 11 p.m. and didn’t wake up.
As a result, Bruns will play his last home game today, when the Huskies (5-4, 3-3) host Utah (4-5, 2-4) at 7:30 p.m., a year later than expected after redshirting last season.
Police from Bruns’ hometown of Prosser had been tasked with trying to get ahold of him or someone at the school because his mom, Pam, didn’t know how to break the news of his father’s death. Football athletic trainer Rob Scheidegger was the first to discuss the news with Bruns in person.
“He was crushed,” Scheidegger said.
Bruns left Seattle and headed southeast to Prosser. After a couple weeks, Bruns, an only child, felt he couldn’t wait to get back to football. He returned to Huskies camp, but things were not right.
“I don’t know if it was what happened with my dad, I just wasn’t the same player,” Bruns said.
He talked with coach Steve Sarkisian and wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. With Bruns struggling and good depth at wide receiver, the group decided Bruns taking a redshirt would be the best path. The reason a redshirt year was still available to Bruns was because former coach Tyrone Willingham shocked many when he inserted him in the second half of the fifth game in 2008, burning any opportunity to redshirt.
That curious decision turned out to be a blessing. Bruns spent last year getting whacked around on the scout team while coming to grips with his father’s passing. He played wide receiver and quarterback, plus handled any gadget plays. Bruns won the Bob Jarvis Offensive Scout of the Year Award for his effort.
This year, he has slowly worked his way onto the field more often. He’s the holder for field goals and extra points. After freshman Marvin Hall showed questionable hands and decisions when returning punts, Sarkisian opted for Bruns’ steadiness. He’s also seen more time at wide receiver as the weeks have passed.
Bruns lost three games at Prosser High School in his career. His first year at Washington was an 0-12 debacle. But, growing up a fan of former UW standout quarterbacks Damon and Brock Huard, Bruns says he didn’t think of leaving when a coaching change was being made.
His dad was a football guy. Bucky played safety at Idaho after playing at Yakima Valley Community College when it had a football program. He was tight with Mike Huard, father of Brock and Damon.
His son is a football guy. At Prosser, Cody set state records when he caught 310 passes for 5,178 yards and 72 touchdowns.
One time in high school, he caught 16 passes in a game. He has 16 in his career at Washington after snagging a crucial 9-yard slant pass on third-and-8 from Cal’s 13-yard line to set up Washington’s first score last week. As his career winds down, he’s not concerned about his reception total.
“A lot of people say, ‘You caught so many balls in high school,’ ” Bruns said. “That doesn’t really matter. You do what you can for the team. I was put in position to do that in high school, we were winning. We’re winning now, so that’s all that really matters.”
Bruns graduated last July with a communications degree. He has applied to be part of Teach For America, which works to bring better education to children in poverty.
But he has a couple more games to play, perhaps four if Washington can become bowl eligible. Bruns’ mom will be at the game Saturday to see him honored with Washington’s other seniors. He also expects another important figure to be in attendance.
“(My dad) will be here Saturday for sure,” Bruns said. “It’s going to be a special day.”
UTAH (4-5 OVERALL, 2-4 PACIFIC-12) AT WASHINGTON (5-4, 3-3)
7:30 P.M., CENTURYLINK FIELD, SEATTLE
TV: Pac-12 Networks, RADIO: 950-AM, 850-AM, 102.9-FM.
The series: Washington and Utah have played seven times, with UW winning all seven. Each meeting prior to last year’s 31-14 conference win in Salt Lake City was in Seattle. The first game between the two was Sept. 26, 1931, the opening game of the year as Washington edged the visitors, 7-6.
What to watch: How Washington deals with Utah up front. Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is one of the best players in the conference and was first-team All-Pac-12 last season. He gets assistance from the menacing Kroger brothers, Dave and Joe.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: A chance to become bowl eligible for Washington.
The pick: Washington, 24-14
Quick and massive in the middle. Huskies center Drew Schaefer must slow him down.
Has completed 68.1 percent of his passes.
Finally healthy after battling injuries this season, he’s dangerous.
Has three 100-yard kick returns for touchdowns in last two weeks.
Leads the Utes with 50 tackles for the season.
Though he’s still nagged by an ankle injury, Thompson’s role may expand today.
In his last home game, he’ll have one of his biggest challenges in Lotulelei.
More records set to fall Saturday.
Will he and Keith Price finally connect on a deep ball?
In his final home game, Trufant should continue to show scouts what they want to firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @Todd_Dybas email@example.com