By JOHN BOSCHINI
Will Bruin is no stranger to expectations.
As a seventh grader, Bruin caught the attention of Greg Vitello, coach at DeSmet High School in St. Louis and the third-winningest coach in men’s high school soccer history.
“He came to one of our grade school camps in seventh grade and his size and physical presence made him stand out,” Vitello said. “He was bigger and stronger than anyone else. He was a man playing against boys.”
Four years and 73 high school goals later, Bruin made the four-hour trip to Indiana University instead of making a teenage jump to the professional ranks.
“It never really crossed my mind [not to go to college],” Bruin said. “My parents wanted me to come to a good school and get a good education. And it’s only four hours away from St. Louis so that’s not bad.”
Bruin isn’t the first DeSmet graduate to make the trip to Indiana. Chris Klein, Mike Ambersley and Pat Noonan all made the jump from coach Vitello to the Hoosiers.
“He was certainly a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school,” Indiana coach Todd Yeagley said. “He has a rare combination of size and athleticism and a scorer’s mentality that you don’t find on too many with his frame.”
Names like Conor Casey and Brian McBride come up when Yeagley talks about his junior forward.
“He’s not going to carve you up with his speed, but he’ll make you pay with his strength and finishing,” Yeagley said of Bruin, who scored nine goals in 2009.
The start of the 2010 campaign has been a mixed bag for the Hoosiers. An opening loss to California in double overtime was followed by a 5-1 thrashing of the fifth-ranked UCLA Bruins, in which Bruin scored a hat trick. Indiana was up to No. 18 in the national rankings and Bruin had four goals through only two games.
“He had a great day at UCLA and could honestly have a few more goals on the season,” Yeagley said. “He could get 15-20 goals this year and he’ll continue to be our primary scoring threat.”
Indiana’s consistency problems came to the forefront on Sept. 10 when Indiana conceded a late goal to lose to unranked Cal State Poly.
“It’s always tough to come back and play a five o’clock game in front of 100 people,” Bruin said. “I mean it’s hard to get up for those games but that’s not an excuse. Teams like Cal Poly, their big game of the year is always against Indiana, so we have to bring 100 percent every game and we didn’t have 100 percent Friday.”
Much like they did against UCLA, the Hoosiers rebounded after a two-day break to shutout No. 22 Drake and get back to .500 on the season.
“After games like the last two Fridays, you want to have that quick turnaround and get back out there and play,” Bruin said. “We want to get back out there and show what we can actually do so it’s a good thing.”
As for a professional career, Bruin is hesitant to speculate (though sources tell SBI that Bruin is squarely on Major League Soccer's radar).
“I’m just sort of playing and focusing on this season and playing everything as it goes right now,” Bruin said.
Vitello, the man who plucked an over-sized 12-year-old out of a group of dozens back in 2003, has different expectations for Bruin.
“It’s not just about soccer with him,” Vitello said. “That’s why he’s going to be successful. If it doesn’t work out in one direction, it’ll work out in another direction. But he’s still a beast on the field.”