White Running Back Stigma Unfairly Hurting Rex Burkhead

Don Wassall

Staff member
Sep 30, 2004
White Running Back Stigma Unfairly Hurting Rex Burkhead

by Mark Knudson

We all know there is a stigma attached to white running backs. They aren’t fast enough to be successful in the NFL, so goes the prevailing thought.

Rex Burkhead didn’t do much to dispel that notion at the NFL combine, where he ran a pedestrian 4.73 in the 40-yard dash. He improved on that, running a 4.55 at Nebraska’s pro day, which is plenty fast for an NFL running back. Better than Stefan Taylor from Stanford and a handful of others, but not good enough, I guess. That’s really the only stat that gets any attention or publicity from the meat market/combine, as we all know. Therefore the self-proclaimed draft gurus have Burkhead rated very low as a potential NFL draft pick.

Sure, you hear about guys with underwhelming scores on the Wonderlic test, or when someone does something freaky good like bench pressing 225 pounds 40 times, stuff like that. Otherwise, the rest of the stats go pretty much unnoticed and the gurus who then decide who’s a good draft pick based on this sliver of information.

As Husker fans, we have some news for Mr.’s McShay, Kiper, Mayock, etc. Rex Burkhead can play in the NFL. Not just play, but excel. Some NFL team is going to get a late round steal come the end of April. As a Broncos fan, I dream of seeing Burkhead in the same backfield as Peyton Manning. Whew!

Analysts get so caught up in combine numbers that they forget there’s a whole bunch of video of these guys actually PLAYING FOOTBALL. Watch Rex Burkhead play football, and you will see for yourself. We watch it. Hopefully they do, too.

Burkhead’s senior year wasn’t what anyone wanted it to be, but even playing hurt, he did save his best performances for the likes of Ohio State and Georgia, and averaged almost seven yards per carry. Ask the Buckeyes if Rex Burkhead is fast enough. Ask Georgia if he can catch the ball out of the backfield, which is so important for NFL teams now. (Gil Brandt says Burkhead has "an exceptional pair of hands.") Ask Iowa about Burkhead’s incredible nine yard pile moving run from his own one-yard line that sealed the deal in last season’s game…when he wasn’t even supposed to play. That was a couple thousand pounds of football players he was moving. Yet he’s not got enough lower body strength? Really?

It’s amazing that these analysts can’t see past his 40-yard dash times.

Burkhead was far from a bust at the combine. He was a "top performer" in five of the six testing categories. He was second among the 33 invitees in vertical leap, broad jump and 20-yard shuttle run. He was fourth in the cone drills and fifth in the 60-yard shuttle. It was a tremendous performance.

Some of these rankings are just absurd. Scott Wright of www.nfldraftcountdown.com has Burkhead listed a ridiculous 21st among draft eligible running backs. There aren’t five better prospects in this class, yet Wright has Burkhead behind guys like Giovani Bernard of North Carolina, Jawan Jamison of Rutgers, Onterio McCalebb of Auburn and Kerwynn Williams of Utah State. You know, guys who performed big time on the national stage last season. Not.

Someone named Frank Cooney also has Burkhead ranked 21st…and has him as a 7th round draft pick or even a free agent. This self-anointed guru noted that Burkhead "wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine." Huh? Maybe someone should clue him in.

By the way, Burkhead, at #21, is the HIGHEST rated WHITE running back. Stigma, indeed.




Hall of Famer
Oct 23, 2005
great article. if that doesn't wake some people up, nothing will!

The Hock

Mar 16, 2008
Northern California
And 98% percent of these scouts and writers trying to keep Rex in his place despite his talent and accomplishments are white. Putting him down is just a reflex with them at this point.

Man I hope Rex gets the chance to make them eat their words.