After 10 years of catching passes and taking handoffs for the Bandits, Fred Bruno is a Sioux City institution.
Since joining the team in 2011, Bruno has been on the field for most of the biggest moments in team history. He has been a part of three Bandits’ league championships, has played in five title games, and holds team records in receiving touchdowns, all-purpose yards, total touchdowns scored, total points scored, punt return yards, kick return yards, as well as punt return touchdowns and kick return touchdowns.
That’s a pretty long list of accomplishments, one that will undoubtedly earn him a spot someday in the team’s Ring of Honor. But if Bruno’s opening-night performance is any indication, we might still be a few years away from that.
For the effervescent Bruno, the chance to play a regular-season game in front of the home fans for the first time in two years was an experience to savor.
“It starts with the organization," Bruno said. "It’s a great organization to play for, and it has been love ever since day one. The guys are just great to play with, and they put you in the right position to succeed.”
Strohbeen has called the shots for Sioux City for almost all of Bruno’s Bandits’ career and has seen him grow from a young rookie, into one of the team’s elder statesmen and a longtime fan favorite.
“We love having him," Strohbeen said. "10 years of seeing that, four touchdowns a night, three touchdowns a night, he is impressive. Go look at the record books, there is Bruno at the top of all of these."
While Bruno’s role may have changed in the past 10 years, he is as vital to the team as ever. With a brand new rookie quarterback under center for Sioux City in Daniel Smith, Bruno's veteran presence will come in handy.
He isn’t the loudest or most vocal player on the field and prefers to let his play do the talking.
In the season opener against Wichita, Bruno and Smith connected four times for 50 yards, an average of 12.5 yards per reception.
“Being a vet, everybody looks at you as a leader,” Bruno said. “I just like to lead by example with everything I do, from practice to be in a game, to after the games when we go sign autographs for the fans. That is who we do it for, and everything falls into place. I’m grateful to be here and be a part of it.”
After their first game together, the veteran seemed impressed with Smith's performance. The hope is that those four catches are just the start of a productive and successful season, with Smith and Bruno serving as two of the main cogs.
"He is a rookie, but he is coming in with his head high," Bruno said of Smith. "He is ready to succeed and ready to be successful. He is doing a great job so far, and we just want to carry it throughout the season."
Bruno has been playing football since he was five years old, and at 32, he knows that it won’t last forever. But for now, he plans to keep going out and delighting the Bandits’ faithful on a weekly basis.
“It’s been great,” Bruno said. “We do this for them. Our slogan right now is 'Steal the show,' and we like to put on a show for our fans, and giving them high-fives just brings some light into the game.”
Sioux City's next home game is scheduled for May 2, against Omaha.