Brandon Bourbon was all the rage at Potosi (Mo.) High School. He rushed for a school-record 2,531 yards and 34 touchdowns his senior year in 2009 while setting the school career rushing record with 5,551 yards.
And yes, he broke the school’s single-game rushing mark with an astounding 451 yards, which unofficially ranks as the fifth-best in Missouri history.
But as good as Bourbon was in high school, he’s had to pay his dues the last four years at Kansas behind James Sims, one of the greatest running backs in school history. The fifth-year senior Bourbon, who first showed glimpses of his potential by rushing for 101 yards on 10 carries against Texas Tech as a redshirt freshman in 2011, patiently waited his return and entered fall camp as the number one running back on the depth chart.
“(I’m) pretty excited, pretty pumped up, ready to get these scrimmages going and these games going,” he said.
Bourbon made his case ahead of senior running back Taylor Cox in spring ball, and culminated with rushing for a game-high 96 yards on 12 carries in the April spring game.
He knew all summer he was the top guy on the depth chart.
“It was a different feel, but at the end of the day, I’m always just working as hard as I could to get better, get in shape like I always have,” Bourbon said. “It was the same thing (preparation) but just a different mindset.”
Even without Sims, Bourbon feels just fine about the running back position.
“It still has a lot of leadership with me and Taylor,” Bourbon said. “It’s me and him being leaders for the young guys and try to coach them up and get them on plays and show them how we do things.”
Bourbon has been impressed with newcomers Mann and Avery.
“I enjoy DeAndre and Corey,” Bourbon said. “I enjoy those guys and trying to get (them) what we’re doing as well. Right now, we’ve (Bourbon and Cox) already done this is before so I would say we definitely have more knowledge of the offense.”
Bourbon believes the rest of the young players on the roster are coming alone well, and learning the system from the senior and junior-dominated team.
“Just the struggles we’ve been through and having so many guys with the same mindset as me, a lot of seniors and older guys have been through a lot so if you get on a younger guy messing up, you got so many people backing you, that you feel more comfortable doing it,” Bourbon said.
Bourbon added he’s feeling quite comfortable in new offensive coordinator John Reagan’s spread offense.
“It’s kind of new, but it’s really similar to what we did with coach (Turner) Gill (in 2010 and 2011),” Bourbon said. “It’s new but it’s kind of like a refresher. You got to always be on top of stuff to stay fresh on it.”
As Bourbon prepares his swan song at Mount Oread, he’s just enjoying the journey and not thinking about the end just yet. There’s just too many goals to accomplish.
“It hasn’t really hit me that this is really it at KU,” he said. “That will probably be a Senior Night thing.”
Bourbon, who has rushed for 422 yards (5.2 average per carry) and caught 31 passes for 181 yards during his career, admits he has some personal goals this year, but isn’t about to share them. Keep in mind, too, that this 6-1 1/2, 225-pound back has never been into any individual stats.
“I have some goals, but I’ll just keep them to myself, don’t want any added pressure,” he said.
But as a fifth-year senior, Bourbon feels a sense of urgency to put Kansas football back on the map and become all the rage again in the Big 12. The program hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2008.
“We want to do something to be proud of that we haven’t done since we’ve been here,” Bourbon said. “We want to get to a bowl game and win a bowl game."
He paused and smiled.
“I want one of those rings.”