Marshall football: Offensive lineman Bruhin is anxious to return for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- In John Bruhin's mind, he's ready to rejoin his Marshall teammates on the football field. Now if his mind could just convince his body of the same thing.
It's not that the sixth-year guard doesn't want to be in the Thundering Herd's starting lineup. But he's had to stay on the sidelines the last two games because of a twisted ankle.
He twisted it first against Central Florida and missed Marshall's win over Memphis. Then he twisted it again in practice before the Herd's loss to UAB.
But with Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) needing to win out to reach its second consecutive bowl game, it will probably take the rest of the Herd's offensive line to hold him back from playing in the home finale against Houston (4-6, 3-3) at noon Saturday (CSS telecast).
"You don't want to go through it and make it worse for upcoming games," Bruhin said, "but I'm at the point where it's two games left and there is no 'Let's wait to see how it feels.' "
Add the ankle to the litany of bangs, bumps, bruises and surgeries that have elongated his Marshall career. On top of the bum ankle and the bruised sternum that forced him to miss three starts this year, there was the previous shoulder surgery and the back issues that put him under the scalpel and caused him to miss the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
He also dealt with personal loss when his older brother Zane, a former Marshall offensive lineman himself, died in January 2008 at age 21.
Yet those hard times have molded Bruhin into the veteran, the leader and the offensive captain he is today. After starting 12 games at right guard last season, he's started seven there this season.
"I've just become a fighter," he said. "Every time you get knocked down, you just have to get back up and just keep going every day. Get out of bed and just know you have to keep working. That's what I've been doing for six years I've been here and that's the only thing I really know how to do."
Bruhin's teammates respect and admire his resiliency and work ethic. Center Chris Jasperse, who has lined up beside Bruhin for every start Bruhin has made this year, said that despite the long list of injuries, Bruhin is a dependable, knowledgeable, essential teammate.
"The thing about Bruhin is he always comes to work, no matter what's going on," Jasperse said. He's always there. He's got great knowledge for the game. He knows what he's talking about."
And while Bruhin carries himself calmly away from the field, his teammates on the line say he can bring a healthy amount of energy on the field.
He gets into the middle of the huddle and pumps up the rest of the team. Yet even then, he knows when to keep his teammates on an even keel. Jasperse said Bruhin will approach the rest of the line once the offense returns to the sideline to calm them down and keep them focused.
"It was obvious who the leader was," freshman lineman Cameron Dees said of his first experiences playing with Bruhin. "He has that switch you talk about. He can go from calm to fired up and he does a great job of controlling that and getting us ready to play."
While he's been at Marshall, Bruhin has maximized his opportunities to the point where it's bursting at the seams.
Bruhin said he'll finish his bachelor's degree in sociology - to go with the bachelor's degrees he's already received in criminal justice and psychology - this semester. Once his playing days are through, he's interested in a career in law enforcement.
"I want to leave with something that's going to help me in the future," he said.
It's a future that Marshall Coach Doc Holliday believes will be bright no matter what direction it takes. With the adversity he's overcome and what he's meant to the team in his six years, Holliday said Bruhin has earned success.
"That kid deserves something really good to happen for him," Holliday said. "He's such a great kid. He loves this place. Good things will happen for John Bruhin because of the kind of kid he is."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.