LA Tech’s Bruno cookin’ up a ‘dream come true’

LET THE BIG DOG EAT: Redshirt freshman and C.E. Byrd grad Carson Bruno is chomping up this college football stuff, starting at right tackle for LA Tech, loving the student-athlete life and learning the game. (Photo by JOSH MCDANIEL)

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

RUSTON — In the new apartment he shares with one current and one ex-teammate, Louisiana Tech’s right offensive tackle is making some pasta, which is to say he’s boiling water and putting noodles in it.

“See, the thing is, I don’t cook,” said Carson Bruno, who, at 6-5, 300, does eat.

Has to. A lot. So it’s handy to know how to boil pasta and heat up some red sauce and sprinkle the mozzarella.

You’re an offensive lineman. You figure things out.

Which is what he’s doing and why he’s starting as a redshirt freshman. He’s trying hard to figure it out.

“I’m extremely proud of him,” said senior guard Joshua Mote, the O-Line’s veteran from Oak Grove. “He’s definitely put in the work.”

Bruno graduated from Shreveport’s C.E. Byrd early and showed up at Tech for spring practice, his 290 pounds and athletic genes good enough to make All-State but not ready for Division I football. One look and you can see he was never really a “little” kid — “According to my mom, definitely not,” he said — and just a glance at those grins and that lumbering walk and you maybe mark him off as half-goofball.

Mistake. He’s already been on the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, and he’s starting as a freshman in a position that won’t tolerate dummies.

“Everybody who knows Carson knows he’s just a big, young, funny dude,” Mote said. “He changed his body during the offseason. Learned the playbook. You’ve got to be sharp out there at right tackle. Think about two of our first three games: we start at Missouri and the stadium’s packed and then in Game 3 it’s another sellout on the road and he’s going against a first-round pick at Clemson, and he held his own.

“He’s had some moments in some games where he had a freshman slump,” Mote said, “but he’s overcome it. And he practices and works hard.”

It helps that he won the Gene Pool Lottery too. Dad Lindsey was a two-way lineman at Nicholls State, and mom Amy played college hoops; each of his granddads played college football.

“Best athlete in the family?” Bruno said. “I’d like to think I’m up there. My dad recently told me I’m better than he was. Now mom, she’s a competitor. But I think I was better than she was at basketball.”

But not at cooking.

“No way,” he said.

The other dogs who eat alongside Bruno are a group of big boys who got a new coach in the spring in Nathan Young, a two-time first-team NCAA Division II All-American as a player at Abilene Christian (2006-07) who coached at Stephen F. Austin last year.

“Coach Young simplified things for us (since last season),” said Bruno, a star defensive tackle in high school who knew his future was on the offensive line.

“Really helped me. Defensive line in high school is just reacting; react and make a play. Offensive line is about being able to work with the people around you. You’ve gotta know where you’re going and what everyone’s doing to execute what the play is.”

“Everyone” he’s talking about are the other linemen who are the most likely to know, right when a play ends, why it did or didn’t work. Lots of thinking, and lots of hitting.

“That’s a hard job, knowing someone is trying to run through your face every play,” said Tech junior receiver Tahj Magee, a quarterback in high school in Franklinton. “They have every bit of my respect. Carson, he’s doing an amazing job. I’ve been watching him over the season, seeing how he’s developing and how he’s gotten better, how he’s learned from his mistakes.

“The biggest thing to me was in the opener against Missouri, he wasn’t afraid at all. He attacked then and he’s attacked every game since. That’s one of those things that you either have it or you don’t; he has it.”  

His fellow starters include Mote, a Tech prodigy who moved to center in midseason when Abe Delphin suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. “Really smart and competitive,” Bruno said when asked to offer a brief description. “And that good set of hair. Really great hair. I tell him that all the time. I do. I tell him.”

The guards are Isaac Ellis (“Great communicator,” Bruno said) and Bert Hale who, like Mote, is from Oak Grove (“He’s football nasty”), football nasty meaning he’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done and doesn’t much care what it looks like.

And Bruno’s bookend tackle? Dakota White, 6-4, 313. “Athletic,” Bruno said. “And also nasty. Very.”

What those ’Dogs need to cook up now are some wins. Tech is 2-6 this season and 5-15 in its last 20 games after a streak of seven straight bowl appearances. The last two games have been an unsettling different kind of “nasty” — a loss to Rice in overtime at home, a loss to FIU in double OT in Miami.

The wins will come, Bruno said. “It’s just gonna take us jelling together with the new staff, and I think we’re doing that. They’ll get some more people in here they need. We’re gonna be fine.”

He said he’s known it since he signed at Tech because of the “family atmosphere,” because of “how bad they really wanted me.” He’s known it since the first time as a college player he ran onto the field on special teams in the opener at Mississippi State, “a dream come true, everything I’ve dreamed of.”

“There’s nothing like playing this game with your friends,” Bruno said. “These last two games, we were so emotional on the sideline, we wanted to win so bad, we were so close and everybody was coming together … we’re making plays, the defense was making plays … for us to win, everybody — no matter what’s happened — we have to all be in this together at that moment, just us and now and nothing else.

“Our junior year at Byrd, we were pretty bad. The next year we played for the state championship. I’ve been there. That’s why I have a positive mindset. I’ve seen it turn around. So I’m looking forward to playing the rest of this season and having some great years here and winning games and making bowls. That’s ahead. We’ll get there.” 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu