Daniel Bruce celebrates during the Winthrop game. Photo by Chris Crews

After coming off a six goal season where he helped the 49ers claim a Conference USA title, 5’6 mid-fielder Daniel Bruce is ready to take his new leadership role in stride. Sporting the renowned number #10 on his jersey this season, Bruce knows what is expected of him.

“With Luke and Brandt, both two massive players in the program, leaving it was a real time and moment for me to say to myself, well I’ve got to step up here. Both on and off the field, I’ve really got to start tightening up in areas and set the example,” Bruce said.

Coming from a sports background, Bruce found his passion in soccer as a young boy growing up in Northwich, Cheshire, England. His father was a big rugby player back in his day, and instilled within him, from a young age, the values athletics could bring.

“No one really in my family played soccer, but I found when I was growing up I wasn’t necessarily as big as my dad, so I couldn’t really resort to rugby back then. So I thought it was going to have to be soccer,” Bruce said.

As a youth, he spent much of his time watching Brazilian soccer, whether on television or online, and over time realized it was the sport for him.

“Just growing up and playing in the parks and playing on the school fields, I was never really with any big clubs necessarily in England, just playing around my mates. Having a love for the game in parks and areas of the like, that’s probably where I grew a real passion for it,” Bruce said.

Coming in as an international player his freshman year, his expectations where not initially met.

“When you come over from a different country, and you come over from England, you feel like you’ve been brought over to play, and that that’s the main reason. Then I found when I came over, I wasn’t playing at all, any minutes. It was actually a tough road for me at the start,” Bruce said.

Redshirting the whole of his freshman year, Bruce had to watch from the sidelines. Despite the frustration, he continued to invest in his relationships with head coach Kevin Langan and his teammates, and they flourished because of it. This reaffirmed to Bruce that he was in the right place. It wouldn’t be till the spring of his redshirt freshman season that he would begin to form his current role.

Entering his sophomore season, Bruce would go on to take 28 shots on goal with six of them connecting.

“It was a good season for us last season, personally I’ve been wanting to hit the double digits for goals, especially starting on such a good team with such good players behind me. I want to be hitting that ten minimum,” Bruce said.

As the season progressed, Daniel began to see his role evolve and embraced it. Racking up assist and winning penalties was a critical part of his role, which Daniel himself would describe as, “getting his hands dirty.” As the season progressed, a philosophy was developed of “if we win, we don’t get to high” and “if we lose, we don’t get to low, focus on the next game and spur each other on.” For Bruce, the 2016 season was time of leadership development and “staking his claim.”

Now, five games into the season, Bruce has found his place, and wants to expand his role as a leader even more. The current #10 of the 49ers has high hopes and expectations for his squad this year.

“The number one goal really, for this squad as a whole at the moment is to come off every session and every game knowing 100 percent that we couldn’t have put more effort in,” Bruce said. “The results, goals and big moments will follow suit from that, but having a one tracked mindset to know that every time someone steps on the field whether 89 minutes or one minute, whether training session or championship final, they can say 100 percent they put their heart and mind into the game. We can have the most skillful players come into this program, if they’re not willing to put 100 percent in, then there’s no point in them being here, fortunately we don’t have any of those lads, everyone here puts 100 percent in. They’re such good lads, and we grind together.”