Superman looks to fly high after fighting behind the cape
Nebraska junior running back Rex Burkehead is a man. A steady man who has shown unbelievable courage and leadership on an off the field. He is a man that through much of his Husker career has been under valued. But, most of all he is Superman.
In high school at Plano High in Texas, Burkehead was given the nickname Superman for his versatility and uncanny ability to make the play no matter where he was put on the field. He played running back, quarterback, caught passes as a wide receiver, played cornerback on defense, and even returned kicks. With all of this success on the field he surprisingly wasn’t highly recruited by the big in-state schools and not a lot of big programs for that matter. Nebraska came calling and Rex jumped at the opportunity.
Through six games of this his junior season, Burkehead has amassed 635 yards rushing while splitting carries with three talented backs. Aaron Green, Ameer Abdullah, and Braylon Heard, along with sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez have all got significant touches in the running game.
Though starting the season slow he has emerged of late going over 100 yards three of the past four games. He is averaging just over 100 yards a game for the season, but it’s more than the carries and rushing yards.
It’s the way he is getting those yards. It’s his ability to come out of the backfield in the passing game. It’s his pass blocking. It’s his leadership that has left him perhaps the most underrated and under valued running back in the country.
In a conference with the Montee Ball and James White duo at Wisconsin, Edwin Baker at Michigan State, among other it may be easy to overlook him in his own conference. With the aforementioned Martinez and the talented young backs, it could be just as easy to overlook Burkehead in his own backfield. But, as you delve into the actual games it is undeniable the difference he makes for his team.
Playing a scrappy bunch from Fresno State, in the second game, the Huskers found themselves leading just 35-29 with 5:24 left in the game and the ball. They turned to Burkehead. He carried six times for 34 yards on a game clinching drive that ended with a 46 yard touchdown run for Martinez. Rex juked, jived, and banged his way to those hard-earned yards all the while chewing clock, moving the chains, and eating at the will of the Bulldog defense. On that day he finished with a mediocre 55 yards on 15 carries and two touchdown runs, but that final drive determined the outcome of the game. .
The next week he bullied the Washington Huskies defense for 120 yards and two more touchdowns. After that he had a career day as a Husker up in the elevation at War Memorial Stadium against the Wyoming Cowboys. He danced and dashed for 170 yards and another touchdown that night.
Then it was perhaps Burkehead’s most notable all around performance of his career. Facing Ohio State, head coach Bo Pelini’s alma mater and Nebraska’s first Big Ten home, Burkehead brought his cape and soared above it all. As Nebraska was chiseling it’s way to the biggest comeback win in school history beating the Buckeyes 34-27, after suffering a 27-6 deficit midway through the third quarter, Rex was making play after play igniting the Husker fire.
Lining up as a running back, fullback, quarterback in the wildcat he toted the rock a career high 26 times totaling 119 yards rushing through the rain in Lincoln. He was also the Huskers leading receiver on the day catching five balls for 59 yards and a highlight reel 30 yard catch, juke, and run from 30 yards out to knot the game at 27. On the next drive he took a pitch, squirmed through a hole, and sprinted his way to an 18 yard touchdown run that put the Huskers up for good at 34-27. After a stop by the defense, Nebraska went to Burkehead countless times to run out the clock and get the win.
For most of his career the 5-11 210 pound back has been overshadowed . Playing behind Husker graduate and current Washington Redskin Roy Helu Jr. , Burkehead got sparing carries his freshmen season. His sophomore season saw him get a little more action as the depth at the spot took hits, and Helu had some nagging injuries himself. He showed starter potential tearing up the field at Iowa State and against Colorado. He surpassed 900 yards rushing last season, but through fall camp and into the season the spotlight seemed to be on Martinez and the young crop of weapons around him.
Midway through the season he has been one of the most consistent running backs in the country and arguably the most consistent in the Big Ten. With that kind of success and the statistics he has put up he has remained undervalued in the national perspective. Maybe he likes it that way.
As we head to the homestretch Rex looks to improve on his numbers and push this young Husker team back into the national spotlight. He may not have to be able to do it all by himself, but as they call him Superman, Burkehead can and will.