Olathe North’s Bruce claims 2019 Simone Award as KC metro’s top football player

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OLATHE, Kan. — Secrets are sometimes hard to keep.

The winner of the annual Thomas A. Simone Award in high school football doesn’t learn they’ve won the trophy until the day of the ceremony. This year’s winner was pretty surprised.

Olathe North junior running back Arland Bruce IV proved to be a Swiss Army knife for his Eagle teammates. On Thursday, he accepted the 2019 Simone Award, adding one more name and one more trophy to North’s glowing treasure trove.

The prize is awarded to the best high school football player in the Kansas City metro.

“I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I’m still kind of in shock,” Bruce said.

Bruce had a dream season, accounting for 45 total touchdowns, 40 of which came as a running back. Stats from the season show Bruce rushed for 2,351 yards.

He follows in the footsteps of his father, Arland Bruce III, who basked in the Simone Award’s shine as an Olathe North Eagle in 1995. The elder Bruce played pro football, primarily in the Canadian Football League.

This makes the Bruces the first father-son duo to win the Simone.

“I didn’t really think of it until the end of the season, and I thought I wanted to win that because I was up for it. Why not win it?” Bruce shrugged.

No school has won the Simone Award more than Olathe North has. Seven Eagles have taken home the prize. The most recent North High player to claim it was running back James Franklin, the 2009 winner.

Bruce’s bounty was presented on Thursday morning in a ceremony at the school. Simone Awards tradition provides that the annual award is presented at a ceremony at the winner’s high school.

The junior said he figured it out Wednesday, when he saw chairs being set up in the school’s gymnasium. Most of the school’s student body gathered to celebrate with the winner.

“I’m just proud of the seniors. They led us this far. We’re trying to carry on their legacy they left here, and get further and win the state championship for them and this community,” Bruce said.

North’s season fell short by only a goal, as the Eagles lost in the Class 6A title game to Derby. Bruce’s family and friends are no less proud.

“I’m very proud of him. He’s just a really good kid. We’ve always focused on him being humble. Not only does he work hard and do the extra work he needs to do, but he tries to stay humble,” Linda Bruce, Arland’s mother, said.

“He’s just going to do whatever we ask him to. He’s going to carry the ball, throw the ball, play any position, whatever. He’s very unselfish,” Chris McCartney, Olathe North head coach, said.

Bruce is weighing a couple of offers to play college football. His mother smiled, adding that she has two younger sons as well. She said, in time, she believes they’ll be as talented as Arland is.

Bruce out-legged strong competition to win the Simone Award, including St. Thomas Aquinas running back Tank Young, Ray-Pec wide receiver Luke Grimm and Liberty North quarterback Jake Van Dyne.

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