- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 25, 2012
Though he remains questionable for Saturday’s game due to a left knee injury, Rex Burkhead is a serious backfield threat on a dangerous Nebraska football team.
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The Cornhuskers’ senior running back, Burkhead has seen the field in only five games and collected just 47 carries. He’s made the most of the workload, though, scoring three rushing touchdowns and averaging a rather absurd 8.6 yards per carry.
Last fall, Burkhead was one of the top Big Ten rushers, collecting 15 touchdowns and 1,357 rushing yards.
At Big Ten Media Days in July, the Daily sat down with a then-healthy Burkhead to discuss his career aspirations, the impact of TV networks on college football programs and his upcoming matchup with the No. 20 Michigan football team.
The Michigan Daily: How important is it to you to be regarded as one of the best running backs in the nation?
Rex Burkhead: It’s a cool honor but it’s not very important, honestly. I’m just worried about winning a Big Ten championship.
TMD: This off-season, what did you concentrate on in terms of improving your game?
RB: Reacting quicker, watching film — picking up on the defense, seeing what they’re giving you and being able to know how the play is going to turn out before it actually happens.”
TMD: After you graduate, is there another passion you have if you didn’t go pro? What else do you see yourself doing?
RB: I want to play football as long as I can, and then once I’m done I’ve always wanted to coach and teach high school, whether it’s back in Texas or wherever. I’ve always loved working with kids, teaching them the basics of football and hopefully developing a good team.
TMD: Is there someone who mentored you as a kid that gave you that kind of idea?
RB: My dad was the coach growing up, my mom was the teacher. I’ve got grandparents that were teachers and coaches as well. It kind of all runs in the family, that we have a strong passion for those things.
TMD: You seem like a pretty down-to-earth, humble guy. Does that come from your family, too?
RB: That’s how they raised me — to stay humble and not get too high on myself. My coaches and teammates do that as well, holding each other accountable and making sure we’re on the right track. Just not listening to all the compliments and awards that come along with it — just staying on the team page.
TMD: When you were in high school, how big of a deal was it that you could watch the teams recruiting you on TV? Did that make a difference?
RB: Yeah, I would say so. I grew up in Dallas, so the Big 12 was always on TV and I had a view of Nebraska and the other Texas schools. I kind of always wanted to play in that conference, just being around it.
TMD: Did you watch Nebraska when you were younger or did that start when you got recruiting letters?
RB: I was a big college football guy growing up, so I always watched them. As I got more interest from them, though, I started watching them more and made sure I caught their games throughout the season just to kind of get an idea of what they’re running on offense and to see how they use their backs.
TMD: Would coaches let you know when they had a big game coming up on a major network?
RB: Yeah, yeah. And that probably helps out a bunch, too. Whenever you know there’s a big game and a lot of people will be watching it, you get that attention to your program. Hopefully you win that game and display a good showing to bring more positive attention to your program.
TMD: Rex, what do you remember from that Michigan game last fall — came in pretty hot and the game ultimately didn’t go your way?
RB: It was a cool atmosphere, being at the Big House. There was a bunch of fans there, great venue. Tough game, like you said, but it was a cool experience.
TMD: Michigan defense really turned things around last year and were able to slow you down, especially in the first half. What did they do so well last fall?
RB: They had a great defense, and give them all the credit. That Martin boy in the middle, he was a beast. He really worked us that game. We had a tough time executing and they gave us some tough looks.