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Bruner fights through injury to help Ichabods make stretch run




In some ways, the 2021 football season is one Washburn University junior linebacker Grant Bruner would love to forget.

In other ways, it's a year he'll cherish forever.

A nagging hamstring injury forced the 6-foot, 220-pound Bruner to spend a big chunk of the season on the sidelines, but the Gretna, Neb. native has bounced back to provide a defensive spark for the 8-2 Ichabods, who will take a five-game winning streak into Saturday's 1 p.m. Senior Day contest against Missouri Southern at Yager Stadium.

21Bruner grant 1Grant Bruner

"This has probably been the toughest year sports-wise I've had in my life,'' said Bruner, who led the Ichabods with 73 in tackles in 2019 before the 2020 season was wiped out by COVID-19. "Coming into the season I had such high expectations for myself personally, and obviously the team, and then I think it was the fourth day of fall camp is when I got hurt and then it was one of those things that just kept lingering.''

Intent on returning to action as soon as he could, Bruner aggravated his injury in his first action of the season and is just now feeling close to 100 percent physically.

"It was just so frustrating because if it's anything besides a hamstring you can usually wrap it up and play, but the hamstring you've got to have it to run and I just wasn't able to go,'' said Bruner, who received All-MIAA honorable mention in '19. "The most frustrating part was physically you think you feel fine and you're ready to go and then you're not as good as you thought.''

The good news for Bruner and the Ichabods is that now he is finally able to flash the form that was expected out of him at the start of the fall.

"This last game was the best I've felt all year, I had no pain or anything,'' he said.

Bruner, who now has 39 total tackles in five games (20 solo), has been in on at least six tackles over the past three games and is coming off the best game of his career in last Saturday's 28-26 win at Pittsburg, registering 20 tackles, with 10 solo stops.

"I think even back in high school the most I had was upper teens,'' Bruner said. "They said after the game I had 20 tackles and I was like, 'Oh boy.' ''

And the game itself, which went down to the wire, is also one Bruner will never forget.

"I was telling people after the game, 'That was the most fun I've ever had playing football,' just being out there in a close game and the different swing of emotions that there was for both sides from penalties to big returns to turnovers.'' Bruner said. " It was just up and down and it was a blast. The most fun I ever had.''