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Coaches share what made Heisman candidate love such a special player

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A banner at the entrance of the school displays the pride the Cougars have for graduate Bryce Love

A banner at the entrance of the school displays the pride the Cougars have for graduate Bryce Love

A banner at the entrance of the school displays the pride the Cougars have for graduate Bryce Love

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On the same day that the football team heads to Winston Salem to defend their state title, a former Cougar will be in New York City hoping for a national honor.

Bryce Love, a 2014-15 graduate who also represented the Cougars twice in the state championship game—both times against Mallard Creek who the team faces Saturday—has been named as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Love, a junior at Stanford University, left quite an impression on his former coaches.

“I’m excited for him and his family. I know Bryce is a good football player, but he is a better person,” head coach Reggie Lucas said. “He has worked extremely hard, and it’s nice to see him get rewarded at the highest level in college.”

Offensive Coordinator Hancel Phipps is also happy for Love’s honor and sees him as a great ambassador for the school and the town.

We’re incredibly proud of Bryce and his family, and the Wake Forest community. He’s done a great job representing here for the past few years,”

— Hancel Phipps

Glendon Dillard coached Love as a freshman on junior varsity and was his running backs coach on varsity.

“It’s still kind of unreal. I’m not surprised of his accomplishments. It just feels unreal as a coach that you coached somebody that is at that point, on that level and on that stage,” Dillard said.

Love was honored Thursday with the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back after amassing 1,973 rushing yards. Honors like this and others are not just important for Love. They reflect back on his alma mater and its football program as well.

“I think it’s huge because it sets an expectation that he already raised as a player here. It sets it even higher. That is something for kids to shoot for whenever they come here. As they come through here, they look around and say, ‘Hey, I can do it, too,’” Dillard said.

Love’s coaches knew he was something special even before he arrived on campus because of his reputation as an accomplished middle school track runner, and his older brother, Chris Love, who played at East Carolina University, was also on the team.

Lucas remembers Love’s “commitment, accountability and trust in our program. Bryce did not take any shortcuts. He worked extremely hard to get where he is.”

Phipps saw the same traits in his star back.

“Bryce was the type of kid who worked harder than anyone that we had. There were times when Bryce was injured, and we’d have to tell him you have to slow down, and he’d be like ‘naw coach. I can keep going,’” Phipps said.

One night in particular stood out in Phipps’s memory that encapsulates Love’s spirit.

“We lost to Sanderson, and there was a big rainstorm, and we’d come up after the game. Everybody was getting dressed, and Bryce was nowhere to be seen, so we all go looking for him, and he’s down on the practice field with his uniform running through a machine we call the blaster because he wasn’t happy with is performance,” Phipps said.

Asked why Love was a worthy candidate, Lucas responded, “Look at his numbers compared to everyone else at his position. He is the best of the best.”

Sometime after 8:00 p.m. Saturday, Love will know whether or not he gets to hoist the coveted trophy. Hopefully before then, he’ll hear that his beloved Cougars are back to back state champs.

On the eve of taking his team to states, Lucas was asked in an email to predict who will win the Heisman trophy.

“I can’t tell you who they will pick, but my pick is BRYCE LOVE!”

Editor’s note: reporters Emma Lewis and Rebekah Helms contributed to this story

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Coaches share what made Heisman candidate love such a special player