CARY – Brock Bussenger has always been that kid in class who never raises his hand to lend his voice to the conversation, but chooses to keep to himself.
So naturally, the Cary-Grove senior middle linebacker’s personality doesn’t exactly scream verbal team leader. Yet, with a bit of prodding and a season’s worth of time to grow into a position that translates to him becoming the Trojans’ defensive quarterback, Bussenger has slowly come out of his shell.
But it hasn’t been easy.
Bussenger became the center of attention, reading what was coming from the opposing offense and having to make the defensive call, alerting his teammates what to do. The task forced him to speak up – something he had rarely done before. But if the Trojans’ defenders were going to follow his lead, he had to be clear and concise in his instructions, taking charge of the entire unit.
“It was a big step for me,” Bussenger said. “It was a wake-up call.”
His work ethic was never in question. Bussenger is constantly on the move, making a bee-line for the ball, where his toughness takes over. Coach Brad Seaburg describes the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Bussenger as a hard-nosed player who “brings a toughness and physicality” for the Trojans swarming defense up the middle.
But after stepping into former C-G standout Sam Babick’s position, Bussenger has become one of the Trojans’ top defenders while assuming a role he never really expected to find himself in.
Babick, who was a first-team Northwest Herald All-Area selection his final two years at C-G, was the one who taught Bussenger what to look for and how to make the calls based on what he saw. Bussenger had never been a fan of film sessions, often finding himself making comments to his teammates rather than what he should be watching.
But a new role meant new responsibilities, including picking out opponents’ tendencies so he could help the defense prepare effectively for that week’s challenge. Like with other aspects of becoming a better leader, Bussenger struggled early. It wasn’t until the Trojans’ third game of the season when he started to feel comfortable.
If the defense didn’t play up to his standards – or that of Seaburg – Bussenger took it personal, shouldering the burden since he accepted the role of being one of the Trojans’ leaders. Although each of the 11 defenders had his own responsibility, it was Bussenger’s duty to set the standard.
If the defense wasn’t meeting expectation, Bussenger became the one to fix it.
“I really had to yell at some people to get them motivated and to get out there and do a better job the next series,” Bussenger said.
Since the slow start and through a midseason knee injury that slowed him a bit, Bussenger has started to trust himself and to see his teammates trust him. It’s a critical step in helping Bussenger not only settle into his new job but to also help the defense grow. Over time, Bussenger has become more confident and comfortable – a sign those around him picked up on, making it easier to feed off of Bussenger’s energy.
The results have spoken for themselves as the Trojans’ defense has played a major hand in an 11-0 record that has landed C-G in the IHSA Class 6A state quarterfinals Saturday against Crystal Lake Central (9-2). And as stout as the defense has become, Bussenger has been there the whole time, directing traffic.
“He’s someone in the middle of the field you can count on on every play,” Trojans strong safety Kasey Fields said. “Whatever the call is, you always know there’s going to be a strong presence with Brock there.”
The defense’s cohesiveness has made the Trojans click at the right time. C-G has outscored its opponents 89-28 in two playoff games. And although the high-powered option offense has gained much of the notoriety for the Trojans’ success, Bussenger has made it clear to his teammates they must hold up their end of the bargain as well.
So far, so good. But the Trojans now face a challenge in Central that offers not only a spread look but also a Godzilla power scheme that found success by playing smash-mouth football and running the ball down the throats of opposing defenses.
“We know it’s going to be another physical game and we’re going to have to work hard all week,” Bussenger said. “But we all know what we have to do.”