Julian Bruce, senior at Liberty High School, has been playing football since he was 6 years old.
He said because of his size, he was able to start a year earlier than the other kids.
Now listed at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 300 pounds, Julian continues to make his presence known on the field.
During a rainy day practice Monday — the first rain in a long time, mind you —Julian could be heard loud and clear, cheering on his teammates while he waited for his turn to practice the drills.
Julian plays on both sides of the ball — on offense he is a strong tackle and on defense he lines up as a tackle.
He said he gets a decent amount of reps on both offense and defense but when asked what position he likes better, he knew the answer right away.
Julian said he enjoys playing defense the most.
“(It’s) where my heart is,” he said. “It gives me the chance to protect my brothers more.”
That — the family aspect — is Julian’s favorite part of playing football.
He said he was bullied until he was in eighth grade and growing up he didn’t have many friends but football changed that.
The teams he has played for became a family of friends he could call his own, he said.
“Julian is the most dominant player I have coached in my 19 years at Liberty,” head coach Steve Valach said. “His size, speed and strength are at an entirely different level.”
Julian said most of the bullying he suffered was due to his size; he was much bigger than the other kids his age.
“Football allowed me to put any anger I had toward a goal that my teammates and I were striving toward,” he said.
The bullying never really bothered him, he said. It only started to bother him when the bullies began to pick on others.
Julian is the second youngest out of nine kids in his family and he said his brother, Mkristo, is who got him interested in playing football.
Julian said he used to come to Liberty when he was younger and sit in the gym with his brother during the teams fifth quarter meeting.
His brother played college ball at Washington State University before signing as an undrafted free agent in 2007 with the Miami Dolphins.
Julian’s brother no longer plays in the NFL and that is one of the reasons why Julian strives to one day play football professionally.
He said he hopes to play longer and better than his brother did in the NFL. Julian also said playing in the NFL will help give his mom the possibility of land and anything else she dreams of.
When it comes to playing collegiately, Julian said he doesn’t have his sights set on one particular school. But he did say he hopes to stay in state so his family can come watch him play.
“I would love to play for any college that will take me,” he said.
If one day, his dream of the NFL doesn’t take off like he hopes it will, Julian said he wants to be a teacher.
He said he would love to teach math or history at the high school level.
“I love (younger) kids,” he said. “But I enjoy having deep conversations.”
Outside of the football field, Julian can be found on the basketball court come winter.
He said he plans to play for the Patriots again this season.
When he isn’t playing football or basketball, Julian said he spends a lot of his time doing community service through his church. He is also a youth leader for sixth and seventh graders at his church.
Julian also participates in other activities at Liberty including choir and drama.
He said he hopes to participates in this year’s spring musical.
“On top of (it all), he’s one of the nicest young men you will ever meet. Everyone at Liberty knows and loves Julian,” Valach said.
This week the league-leading 3-0 Patriots travel to face Bishop Blanchet at 7 p.m. today, Friday, Sept. 22.
“I’m ready for a challenge,” Julian said regarding Friday’s match up against the Braves.
The Patriots last win was Sept. 15 against Sammamish, 60-14.
Julian said Sammamish was OK but he is ready to play a bigger, stronger team in Bishop Blanchet.
Julian and the Patriots return home Friday, Sept. 29 for a 7 p.m. kickoff against Nathan Hale.