Big Ten Media Days: Rex Burkhead Stays Focused on Improvement, Big Ten Title

Adam Jacobi@Adam_JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterJuly 27, 2012

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 8: Running back Rex Burkhead #22 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers follows his blockers during their game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium October 8, 2011 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Ohio State 34-27. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

CHICAGO—Walter Camp? Heisman? Bah.

These are mere words to Rex Burkhead in July, the sort of thing other men can ponder as the start of football season is still more than a month away. And even once the season gets going, they're not his priority.

"It'd be a great honor," Burkhead said of Heisman nomination, "but I'm really just focused on the Big Ten championship. That's where I want to get to, that's the goal of this team, and all those individual awards and things will take care of themselves."

That sentiment stands in some type of contrast to Montee Ball, who didn't come across as selfish but still had no problem saying he wanted to break records and win the Heisman. But that's Unsexy Rexy for you: all business on and off the field, no pleasure for opponents.

As far as what's been on his mind during the season, it's simple: improvement. Improvement for his team, and improvement for him personally.

"I think you'll see a lot more comfortable offense, a lot more confident offense," Rex said when asked to compare last season's offense to this season's. "Guys that know where to line up right away, know what play's being called, and react quicker. The more experience you have with that offense, the quicker it comes."

Even when he had the opportunity to take an "easy out" and blame that unfamiliarity with opposing defenses on moving to a new league for the first time, he demurred, saying it just came down to execution regardless of the opponent.

And as for his own growth for the upcoming year, he said he's improving on "reading defenses quicker, knowing how the play develops before it happens, and watching film. Looking at defensive fronts, seeing how they slant and react on different plays helps you know where that hole's going to open up."

So there's an exciting thought for opposing defenders: Burkhead, the irrepressible hammer of Nebraska's bruising ground game, is learning how to play smarter, not harder. All of what he does plus better pre-snap reads? Scary.

If Burkhead's comments seem measured and reserved, yes, they were. But to anyone who watched Burkhead play last year, that should come as no surprise, because it represents him in a nutshell: no nonsense, no bravado, no interest in giving anyone bulletin board material.

Just working hard and trying to give his team its best chance to win.


Adam Jacobi is a Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.