HAPPY TO BE A WILDCAT: Reunited with cousin York, running back Brundage brings production to Temple
NEW GUY IN TOWN: Senior running back Deshaun Brundage has rushed for 219 yards on 42 carries in his first varsity season with Temple's football team, highlighted by 168 yards on 27 rushes in the Wildcats' 34-20 home-opener victory over Willis last Friday. The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Brundage, whose cousin is Temple standout senior linebacker Taurean York, moved to Temple last October after having been a basketball and football player at North Forney, east of Dallas. Brundage and the Class 6A 22nd-ranked Wildcats (2-0) travel to play at 5A Division I No. 9 College Station (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
One year ago, Deshaun Brundage wasn’t in the Temple football team’s plans to be the Wildcats’ starter at running back this season. Was that because he wasn’t working hard enough or someone else was ahead of him on the depth chart?
Nope. It was because Brundage, well, wasn’t even a Temple High School student at that time. He was a junior football and basketball player at North Forney, just east of Dallas. The only person in the Wildcats’ program who knew much about him was standout then-junior linebacker Taurean York, Brundage’s cousin.
In late October 2021, however, Brundage and his family decided to take an opportunity to relocate to Temple and move in with York’s family. He immediately started practicing with the Wildcats, though he was restricted to playing mostly linebacker on the junior varsity team. He dressed out for Temple’s two playoff games but, although eligible because he had established residency, did not play.
This year, after a full offseason in Temple and countless hours working to improve his body and his game, Brundage is ready to shine in his one and only season as the Wildcats’ starting running back.
The 5-foot-10, 188-pound Brundage followed his 15-carry, 51-yard output in Temple’s season-opening 17-10 win at McKinney by breaking through in the Wildcats’ home opener last Friday night at Wildcat Stadium. He dented the Willis defense by rushing 27 times for 168 yards in an efficient, workmanlike performance to help propel Temple to a 34-20 victory.
Along with making a positive contribution, Brundage is thoroughly enjoying the experience of being a Wildcat.
“It’s just the intensity. It’s really fun, honestly,” Brundage said Tuesday afternoon as the Class 6A No. 22-ranked Wildcats (2-0) prepared for their non-district road game at 5A Division I No. 9 College Station (1-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. “Playing with my cousin and playing with friends that I’ve been knowing but never really got to spend time with, it’s cool overall.”
Temple first-year offensive coordinator Robby Case commended Brundage on how he’s adjusted to the Wildcats’ program and to the role of top running back, particularly after the graduation of three-year standout Samari Howard, the versatile, productive running back who last season broke Temple’s all-time records for touchdowns and points scored and now plays for Army West Point.
“Deshaun’s a workhorse. We needed a little bit of consistency, especially in that position replacing the kid who we lost last year,” Case said, alluding to Howard. “He’s stepped us a leader in that (running backs) room, being the only senior. And I mean he is a plowhorse, there’s no doubt.”
Brundage might not be as fast or explosive as Howard, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be. His combination of quickness, size, vision, power and intelligence makes him a potent all-around threat.
“He’s got great vision, he’s low to the ground and he’s hard to tackle. He’s a strong kid. He’s not a blazer, but he’s not terribly slow,” Temple seventh-year head coach Scott Stewart said about Brundage. “He’s a little bit elusive and he’s got good hips. He’ll see it over here, and he’s got the quickness to get over there. He doesn’t have that three-step burst that Samari or (former Temple standout) Jeff Carr had, but he’s effective.”
Brundage said his running back influences include Howard, current NFL standouts Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris and Texas Longhorns star Bijan Robinson.
“I definitely take a lot out of Samari – his vision and also his patience. I think I have pretty good vision, too,” Brundage said. “I like Bijan Robinson. He’s really good as far as footwork and making plays.”
RUGGED RUNNER: Temple senior running back Deshaun Brundage (6) uses a stiff-arm maneuver to fend off a Willis defender during the Wildcats' 34-20 win last Friday night in their home opener at Wildcat Stadium. After being limited to 15 carries for 51 yards in Temple's season-opening 17-10 victory at McKinney, Brundage broke through with 168 yards on 27 carries against Willis, including bursts of 24, 23 and 17 yards. Also a top student, Brundage maintains a 4.7 grade-point average and ranks in the top 50 of his class. (Photo by Mike Lefner, Temple ISD/Special to TempleBeltonSports.com)
Brundage also excels in the classroom, carrying a 4.7 grade-point average that has him ranked – as is the Baylor-committed York – among the top 50 students in Temple’s senior class.
“Deshaun absolutely works his tail completely off,” Stewart said. “Great kid, great character, very respectful and great grades. He and Taurean are both near the top of their class.”
Added Case: “He’s all business. It runs in the family line.”
Brundage’s father, Darnell Brundage, earned a master’s degree and spent many years as an athletic trainer, including stints with Copperas Cove ISD and Dallas ISD.
“It kind of runs in the family, honestly,” Brundage, who has two younger sisters, said about performing well academically. “My parents harp on that a lot and always want me to have all A’s. I definitely try to do well.”
Brundage’s move to Temple prompted him to build a stronger relationship with his cousin York, who’s in his fourth season as the Wildcats’ starting middle linebacker and was selected as District 12-6A’s Defensive MVP as a sophomore and junior.
“We had definitely been in contact a little bit, but it wasn’t how we are now. I’d say we’ve gotten really close since I’ve been here,” Brundage said, adding that he lived in Copperas Cove until he moved away when he was 5 or 6. “Every now and then we would text and we’d come down to visit or they would come up and visit, so it was pretty cool.”
Brundage marvels not only at York’s on-field skills also at his cousin’s attention to detail when studying Temple opponents on video.
“Taurean’s really good. A lot of people may know him for the tenacity that he plays with, but he’s like really smart. If you look at how he studies the game and watches film, it’s unbelievable,” Brundage said. “I remember the Copperas Cove game last year. The right tackle, if his hand was down, he knew what percentage (of the time) that it was a run. And if his hand was up, he knew that was a pass. That gave away the play to Taurean right away.”
This football season isn’t Brundage’s varsity debut in a Temple uniform. After the Wildcats’ second-round playoff loss to Rockwall-Heath last Nov. 19, he joined the basketball squad and played point guard and shooting guard in head coach Joey Martin’s first season. Temple (18-19) finished 6-8 in 12-6A for fifth place.
“I came in and was playing pretty well and was starting for a little bit. Then I went on a little (stretch) where I was playing real inconsistent,” Brundage said. “But then I picked it back up toward the second round of district and started all the way throughout. We came up one game short of making the playoffs.”
Brundage actually didn’t play football in his freshman and sophomore years at North Forney, competing in basketball instead. Making the Falcons’ varsity team as a sophomore, he averaged 9.7 points, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game to help North Forney go 11-3 in district and reach the second round of the 5A playoffs. However, head coach Kadrian Bryant – whom Brundage enjoyed playing for – then departed for Tenaha after one season with the Falcons.
“It was cool. It hurt that our basketball coach left, but it was fun,” Brundage said.
After deciding to play football as a junior, Brundage rushed for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 45 carries in five games, capped by a 134-yard, one-TD performance in a loss to Ennis last Oct. 8.
It was around that time that Brundage's family made the decision to move to Temple and live with the York family. Brundage’s mother and York’s mother are sisters.
“I kind of wanted to be down here with family. My mom’s side lives down here. Up in Dallas everything’s kind of spaced out, so it’s more of a family feel down here,” explained Brundage, whose family now lives in its own home. “I really liked (moving to) Temple. A lot of the kids down here talk about, ‘There’s nothing to do here,’ stuff like that.
“But the main goal for me is playing at the next level, so really all I have to do here is just work out and (go to) school. I mean, we do hang out with friends and stuff, but it was better for me here, coming from Dallas.”
Around the middle of last October, Stewart received a phone call from a school counselor informing him that a new student had enrolled at Temple and wanted to join the athletic program. Stewart met with Brundage and his father to discuss the steps for playing football.
“I watched him move around a little bit. We were like, ‘Look, let’s be honest. It’s going to be tough to learn our system literally in two weeks,’” Stewart said. “So he played some linebacker on JV and we taught him three plays and let him carry the ball a little bit for a couple weeks.
“When he did dress with us (on varsity) he practiced at linebacker, so he didn’t do anything (at running back). He came in saying, ‘I’m a running back.’ So I said, ‘OK, as soon as the season’s over we’ll make that adjustment.’ He went and played basketball – and he's a pretty good hand on the basketball court, too – and then came back for spring ball and played running back.”
Brundage certainly has noticed a difference in life as a Temple football player compared to his previous high school program.
“The expectations and how hard we were coached are kind of the same, but the work is different. We definitely put in a lot more work. It’s more detailed and we’re coached at a higher level,” he said. “Even as far as special teams, I love that everybody here takes it serious. We have a special coordinator. I don’t think at my old school we had a special teams coordinator.”
Brundage said he worked harder than ever this summer to prepare himself physically for being a go-to running back in his lone full season with the Wildcats.
“I’m really a man of faith, so I’m giving it all to God and just working hard. This summer I really pushed myself and worked overtime – two, three, maybe four workouts a day,” Brundage said. “It was a hot summer, but I put an emphasis on getting used to the hot sun. After summer workouts, I’d go home for a little bit and come back and work out for 2 or 3 hours. Then I got some weights at the house, so I lifted before the night was over. I gained confidence.
“Last year when I was playing (at North Forney), I was kind of just a straight downhill runner. But this summer, I really worked on footwork and being able to break people down and make them miss in the open field. So now I can get the best of both worlds in the running game.”
Although Brundage’s rushing statistics were much better against Willis than they were at McKinney, Case attributed that more to the size and skill of McKinney’s defense than to any major adjustment that Brundage and Temple made against Willis.
“We talked to the entire offense about how McKinney was a dang good defense, and running the ball against them was going to be a challenge. They’re athletic, good-sized kids,” Case said. “So last week, we stuck to the plan and stuck to the process like we did the week before. I just felt like the matchups were better, and Deshaun did the exact same thing he did the week before. The O-line did a really good job. It wasn’t as complicated as what we saw the week before.
“Now, almost the entire game against Willis we were going against a loaded box. We were outnumbered, because they were playing basically man-to-man on the outside. So the fact that he was able to get those yards against a loaded box said a lot about him, because that extra guy is his guy to make miss.”
Brundage produced five runs of 10-plus yards against Willis. His eight carries for 89 yards in the first half included bursts of 13, 24 and 23 yards. Brundage kept churning after halftime, compiling 79 yards on 19 carries to finish with a career-best 168 yards on 27 rushes. Only one carry went for negative yardage – a 1-yard loss at that.
“We definitely got better up front and even in the backfield, too (against Willis),” Brundage said. “I know we had some confusion (vs. McKinney) but we definitely tightened it up. At practice we were doing championship reminders and that kept our mind on being as perfect as we can be. It was the same defensive front and formation, so we definitely got better and knew where we needed to hit it. It was really good.”
Along with getting Brundage into the end zone for his first varsity touchdown as a Wildcat, Case – who joked that Brundage’s “max (run) might be in the 25- to 30-yard range” – said he’d like to get the rugged senior more involved in the passing game for junior quarterback Reese Rumfield, who’s thrown for four touchdowns and rushed for two.
“Getting Deshaun the ball in the passing game will be (important). Last year with Samari we were so fortunate to be able to throw him the ball, because he was also a receiver,” Case said. “We haven’t had a chance yet to get the ball into the running back’s hands out of the backfield. I’d like to see him catch some footballs and make people honor him in the passing game. That will really help him moving forward.”
According to Case, Brundage took a big step forward as a blocker against Willis after his missed assignment led to a McKinney sack in the season opener.
“I told all of our running backs that one of the keys to success last week was if they were going to be able to protect against (Willis’) blitzing edge linebacker, because that dude was coming all night long and we knew that,” Case said. “Sure enough, they did a phenomenal job. Deshaun ended up cutting that guy down about five times, and the last time he hurt him and that kid went out with an ankle sprain. Deshaun rose up to the challenge and did a really good job in protection.”
Brundage said he’s formed a good relationship with Case, who was promoted from Temple’s special teams coordinator to offensive coordinator in June.
“I like the way Coach Case is always finding new stuff and new ways to get people the ball. He’s so creative with his knowledge of the game,” Brundage said. “He studies it inside and out and knows how to put people in the best positions to do well on the field.”
Brundage competed for Temple’s JV track and field team last spring and wants to follow up his senior basketball season by playing baseball, which originally was his favorite sport.
His major goal is to play college football, and he’s attended several summer camps and gotten recruiting interest from programs such as Incarnate Word, Angelo State and Tarleton State. After playing only five varsity games at North Forney as a junior, he’s aiming to put together as many video highlights as possible this season.
And the more games that defending district champion Temple plays, the better it will be for Brundage, who’s having a blast playing for the Wildcats and especially with his cousin York.
“Taurean and I talked about that – taking our game to the next level so we can do the best we can in our last year. That’s definitely the goal, getting past the second round and not stopping there,” said Brundage, who wants to make first-team all-district and reach 1,500 rushing yards. “I definitely always want to help the team and get to state.”
Brundage occasionally lines up together in Temple's backfield with the 6-foot, 215-pound York, who’s gotten a few opportunities with the offense this season. However, it’s on the practice field that the reunited cousins really compete with each other.
“All the time. It’s usually 50/50 (who wins the head-to-head battles),” Brundage said with a grin. “We’ll clash really hard, but we’re staying up. They don’t really want us to go full out on each other. You definitely want to be ready for the game.”