By Todd Wills
Corsicana Daily Sun
FROST — —
Maliko Bruce took a circuitous rout to Frost.
By the way of the Virgin Islands.
With a lot of heartbreak along the way for the Frost nose tackle and the team’s biggest dude.
Bruce moved in with his aunt in Mertens after his mother died of breast cancer when he was 16 years old. Now two years later, the hurt is still there. But he’s found an unlikely source — football — to help honor his mother’s memory.
In only his second year playing the sport, Bruce has become a dominant cog in a Frost defense that is allowing 13 points a game in the playoffs. At 6-5, 280 pounds, he is a tower in Class 1A football, and he’s asserted himself like it.
Frost (12-1) plays Tenaha (8-4) in a Region-III 1A DII final at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Van.
Bruce has 43 tackles, nine tackles for losses, four sacks and 11 quarterback pressures. He understands at his size, he doesn’t have to get on the stat sheet to make a difference.
Bruce can blow up plays by getting penetration in the middle of the line, messing up the timing of the offense. Or he can force double teams. Swat down passes. You name it.
“My job is to beat people off the line,” Bruce said Tuesday.
He grew up playing basketball and baseball in the Virgins Islands. Frost coach Eric Blenden saw Bruce in the hallways when he first got to the school — he was close to 300 pounds — and thought, “Man, I hope he can play football.”
Bruce was unsure about it. But the coaches knew he was strong enough. The first time he hit the bench press he lifted the same weight as the other players. His coaches told him to double it, which he did, and still did it with ease.
Bruce started the last two games last year and had a big sack against Wortham. But he admits football was tough at first, especially the conditioning part of it.
“I couldn’t go more than two plays,” he said.
He’s improved this season, and even played some fullback, rushing for two touchdowns. He rarely comes out of the game on defense.
“He’s doing a great job from where he came from a year ago,” Blenden said.
Bruce talks very little about his mother or the deadly disease that took his mom away from him. Not even to Blenden or his teammates. He is focused on the team and playing for her memory.