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Too bad Leo Durocher never got to meet Rex Burkhead. The legendary major league baseball manager would have been forced to change the name of a book that claims to talk as straight as a hard-hit low line drive. Some of us remember that book entitled “Nice Guys Finish Last.”
And that title would reflect the exact opposite of Burkhead, who, in essence, won the Heisman of Character in the opinion of a UNL grad and orthopaedic doctor suggesting that title at the end of this column. Burkhead is, after all, only the third captain in the 21-year history of the Allstate AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Good Works Team presented by Home Depot Thursday night during ESPN’s annual tribute to the biggest stars in college football.
Even though Burkhead taped his response for a prominent segment in the prime-time production, he must have left an impression because Good Morning America hosts went out of their way Friday morning to praise Burkhead and the inspirational relationship he’s built with Jack Hoffman, his 7-year-old “little buddy” fighting brain cancer, the No. 1 killer in children.
Sugar Bowl Recognition Awaits Good Works Team
Burkhead “embodies the true spirit” of the Good Works Team, said Kathy Mabe, the All-State West Regions president who explains why Burkhead received the rare honor of captain of a Good Works team that will be honored at the 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The recognition will be one day after Burkhead helps lead Nebraska against No. 6 Georgia in Orlando’s Capital One Bowl.
Burkhead won’t be the only Capital One Bowl player honored in New Orleans. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray also will be honored as a member of the 2012 Good Works Team, which is comprised of 11 players from the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision and another 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Series Subdivision, Divisions II, III, and NAIA.
The N-Sider points our readers to six links at the top of this column. All reinforce something Husker fans already know – Rex Burkhead redefines the meaning of “good guys” who compete in such a physically demanding sport.
All About Community Contributions, Serving Others
The Good Works Team recognizes competitors for their contributions to the community and their service to others off the field.
In his taped response, Burkhead called the award “an unbelievable honor” and acknowledged how its goal represents “a big part of who I am as a person.” He said the award “is definitely good for Nebraska” because “Coach Bo (Pelini) teaches us well. We’re not only just football players. We’re people who care about the team. We care about what we do in school, and that’s important – to be the best overall person you can be.”
Kelly Mosier, director of web operations for Huskers.com, traveled with Burkhead this week to chronicle the 2011 All-Big Ten running back’s experiences in New York, where he also was honored as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award winner. It was Burkhead’s first trip to New York “and you could tell he was enjoying the whole experience,” said Mosier, who shot film of Rex at the banquet and outside Radio City Music Hall. “He was having a good time,” Mosier said. “He was enjoying the process.”
Is Burkhead One of College Football’s Nicest Guys?
That takes us to the crux surrounding this highly decorated but deeply humbled Nebraska student-athlete: Is Rex Burkhead a nice guy in a world that doesn’t often favor that description?
“He’s such a class act,” Mosier told me. “We flew commercially, and he was so gracious and so generous with people who came up to him and wanted to shake his hand or ask for an autograph, whether we were in Lincoln, Minneapolis or LaGuardia in New York. He would always take time out to talk to everyone he met. I mean, he’s such a nice guy all the way around that it’s hard for anyone not to be a Rex Burkhead fan.”
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Voices from Husker Nation
I’m a Husker alum and now an orthopaedic surgeon living in Michigan. As I’ve gotten older, the final scores of Husker games have become a little less important, and looking for inspiration for both my kids and myself in sports has become most of what I look for. I found nothing more wonderful than Rex’s off-the-field activities the past few years. I’ll trade a national championship every time to fill a roster with Rex Burkheads. I’ll go a step further and say that if I could fill a roster with Rex Burkheads, national championships would likely follow. Incredible kid who at such a young age already knows what matters most in life. This latest honor is the Heisman Trophy of character for a football player who just happened to have the talent to win the less important real Heisman.Life will be good to Rex. Please keep recruiting character, Bo. It really does matter to a lot of us. John Samani, NU Class of 1985, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan