Photos By Hillary Ehlen and J. Alan Paul Photography
After a standout true freshman season in 2015, NDSU running back Bruce Anderson’s highly-anticipated sophomore campaign was limited to just nine games and 38 carries after suffering an ankle injury. This season, Anderson has reminded defenses how dangerous he can be, leading the Bison in rushing and taking on a bigger role with starter Lance Dunn sidelined since the Oct. 21 Western Illinois game.
A BIGGER ROLE
Whenever Bruce Anderson touches the ball, there’s a noticeable buzz in the Fargodome. Often times after the play, there’s a big “Bruuuuuce” cheer from the crowd. Anderson has dazzled audiences with his kickoff returns, elusive runs and powerful carries for three seasons. He now finds himself in a featured role in the backfield because injuries have hit the position group hard.
“I just have to raise my level of play.” – BRUCE ANDERSON
Lance Dunn was having one of the best individual seasons in NDSU history and was on pace to break the school’s single-season touchdown record. His hip injury turned out to be more serious than anticipated, making his return to the field questionable this season. In stepped Anderson, who set out to show the production in the ground game won’t decrease.
“I feel like I have to step up more and offer more to the team as a running back since we are short one,” Anderson said. “I just have to raise my level of play.”
POUNDING THE ROCK
Like Dunn, Anderson has elite speed. He showed that as a true freshman with two kickoff returns for a touchdown during the 2015 playoffs. But he’s added a new element to his game: power. Anderson can outrun people, yes, but he’s getting it done in between the tackles as well. The pile is often moving forward when he has the ball.
“I’m just running more downhill and putting pressure on the defense quicker,” Anderson said. “I tried to get more explosive and powerful.”
Anderson said it was a goal of his in the offseason to become a complete back with a mix of speed and power. He also learned a valuable lesson after spending much of last season not at full strength and speed.
“It helped me be more appreciative of the game,” Anderson said. “As a young guy, you’re looking at all the games you have to play. But the reality is you only have the one game ahead of you. It goes game by game. It helped open my eyes and I became more appreciative of the game.”
FAMILY IN FARGO
From Ruskin, Florida, Anderson was playing football a long ways from home. But the distance doesn’t seem so bad anymore after his parents, Norman and Lesley, decided to move to Fargo to watch their son play.
“It’s good to have them here,” Anderson said. “It’s a huge thing to have your parents here. It’s a good support system. I don’t feel like I’m too far from home now.”
Bruce is a mature guy, as proven by his ability to mentally and physically play as a true freshman and quickly become one of the most explosive kick returners in the FCS. He adjusted to the college lifestyle with limited access to his parents. But now having them in town makes everything a little less stressful.
“It makes it a little easier,” Anderson said. “I don’t rely on them too much about the things I handle as far as being a student-athlete because I feel like that’s more on my side of things. But I do rely on them for information and guidance.”