MAPLE PARK – Billy Bruno saw up close how hard recently-graduated Kaneland linebacker Erik Teran worked to be a standout on the Knights’ defense during the spring.
Now, he wants a piece of it.
“Working hard gets you somewhere,” Kaneland senior linebacker Bruno said at the Knights’ 7-on-7 on Tuesday. “He worked his butt off to get where he is, and he’s probably one of the best linebackers to come through the school. I really looked up to him, just his work ethic and how he played.”
Bruno started one game at linebacker in the spring and also saw action when the second string would enter late in the game. Considering the uncertainty of last season – and potentially moving forward – he knows you have to cherish every moment you get.
“You can’t take anything for granted.” Bruno said. “Especially because you don’t know when things can get taken away from you. I’m working harder now that I know anything can happen at any second.”
Bruno is projected to be among a bevy of defensive players taking over starting roles for Kaneland, which is starting from scratch on that side of the ball.
“I think we’re going to be a pretty good defense,” Bruno said. “I know we graduated all 11 seniors, all 11 positions on our defense last season, all new starters across the whole board. Maybe two or three guys returning as starters [on offense].
“But I know our defense. All of our guys had great guys to look up to last season and work off of. I think we’re going to come and be a pretty good defense this year.”
A high turnover rate of defensive and offensive starters could translate to lower outside expectations for one of the toughest teams in the Interstate Eight last season.
All that does is put a chip on the Knights’ shoulders.
“We’re coming in as the underdogs for most schools as a defense, but I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year,” Bruno said.
In close to a calendar year, Bruno has put on about 25 pounds, up from 175 pounds, and now is at 200. His goal is to get to 215 in the near future. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s eating a ton.
“I say ‘second dinner [and] third dinner,’ ” Bruno said. “After 8, 9 o’clock at night, just eating as much as you can and [I] never get full. Just keep eating, you’ll get bigger.
Recruiting wise, Bruno has received interest from Carroll University and Augustana in recent weeks.
“I’ll play wherever,” Bruno said. “It’s just going wherever I can. I’m willing to put in the work and do whatever I need to do to get there.”
On offense, Troyer Carlson saw extensive action as a freshman at starting quarterback in the spring.
Flanked by presumptive returning starters in running back Corey Phillips and wideout Sam Gagne, the Knights are ready to usher in the next wave of offensive highlights.
“[Gagne] is great. He’s a quick guy,” Carlson said. “I can always depend on him. A jump ball, he’s there. It’s great to have someone like that.”
“He’s also a great blocker,” Carlson said. “If you need a block on the outside, he gets it down. He’s a great leader, too. He always pushes kids, and he’s a great kid to have on the team.”
Carlson himself has spent ample time perfecting his mechanics.
“Just my arm mechanics [and] trying to get better every day. There’s always something to work on. There’s always something to look at,” Carlson said. “People in the NFL, trying to do what they do. [Just like]Tom Brady and them, [I’m] trying to perfect my craft.”