Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Football: Northwestern’s Braydon Brus looks to jump into Mike linebacker spot

Anna Watson/The Daily Northwestern
Junior linebacker Braydon Brus looks to make a play during Saturday’s final spring practice. Brus forced two fumbles on kickoff coverage last season.

Donning black and white practice jerseys on a chilly Saturday morning in Martin Stadium, Northwestern provided a plethora of potential precursors at its sole open spring practice. Coach David Braun’s offensive and defensive units duked it out on the team’s temporary home field, highlighting players primed to push for an elevated role next season.

With veteran standouts Bryce Gallagher and Xander Mueller filling the Wildcats’ starting linebacker slots during the 2023 campaign, defensive snaps stood at a pristine premium for several developmental pieces. For young, hungry contributors, special teams served as a proverbial proving ground.

A former Iron Man athlete who rose to national prominence within the San Gabriel Mountains’ foothills, then-sophomore linebacker Braydon Brus built the foundation for future success on the kickoff unit. Like a heat-seeking missile, Brus barreled toward opposing returners, racking up two forced fumbles on kickoff coverage last season.

“My mentality is any chance I get to go out there, make a play and prove myself, I really wanted to do that,” Brus said. “Any time I’m out there, trying to cause some havoc — be around the play or in the play.”

After Gallagher declared for the NFL Draft in January, Braun found himself with All-Big Ten-sized shoes to fill at the Mike linebacker spot. Mueller said he expects to maintain his role as the Will linebacker, while senior linebacker and former four-star recruit Mac Uihlein and Brus have split middle linebacker reps.

Brus said he and his summer roommate have embraced the position battle, consistently pushing one another to a higher intensity.

“To have a guy like Mac Uihlein that I’m sharing reps with — one of my closest friends here — we really get to push each other,” Brus said. “It’s been a great spring, and it’s been cool to just grow, get a lot more reps and really develop.”

Although the duo is clawing for a coveted role, there’s no animosity between No. 33 and No. 37,  Brus said.

Instead, he and Uihlein have worked in tandem to better the overall team, and both players have improved tremendously this spring as a result, Brus said.

“The coolest part is that we both want the best for each other,” Brus said. “We want to get the most out of each other. He’s my lifting partner … We’re doing recovery together. It pushes us to critique each other but also critique ourselves.”

In a program with an exceptionally rich linebacking pedigree, Brus said battling for a solidified starting spot is what he dreamed of when he committed to NU in 2021. He didn’t see game action during his freshman year, biding his time in practices.

When it came time to make the jump to live action “in the arena,” the Glendora, California, native looked toward Gallagher for guidance.

“He helped me so much with my development, especially that jump from freshman to sophomore year,” Brus said. “He was just so instrumental, just in the way he led. His play style, how he carried himself in the weight room, on the field, always giving 100% in everything he does … I could go on and on, but he set an amazing example for our entire linebacker room.”

For Brus, Gallagher’s influence has carried over throughout spring ball, as the collective linebacking corps consistently holds itself accountable. Brus said the group attacks its preparation in unison, maintaining a high bar for every individual.

He added that he and his teammates were ecstatic when Braun elevated linebackers coach Tim McGarigle to defensive coordinator in January.

“His football knowledge is obviously on another level, but the passion, intensity and love he has for not only Northwestern, but for us as players — (it) just maximizes our potential,” Brus said.

Brus said his goal for his junior season is to see significant reps on the defensive side of the ball, building on his progression from last year.

While he holds himself to a high standard, Brus holds an especially lofty vision for NU.

“Going from 2022 to 2023, a big lesson was just seeing the change in culture, making sure we were really hammering that down and giving everything to the team,” Brus said. “Football is a lot more fun when you’re winning, so now that we got a taste of that again, it’s definitely fueling our team to go out there and make a good push this year.”

Email: [email protected]

X: @jakeepste1n

Related Stories:

Football: Northwestern to play ‘majority’ of 2024, 2025 home games at enhanced Martin Stadium

Football: Bryant, Gallagher, Johnson perform at Northwestern Pro Day

Football: Northwestern promotes Alex Spanos to director of sports performance for football

More to Discover