Amir Pinnix Looking for Big Year

Amir Pinnix, a 6-foot, 205-pound junior running back, finished with 78 carries for 467 yards and one touchdown last season. He earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after he rushed for 206 yards against Michigan State. With the loss of Laurence Maroney and Gary Russell, Pinnix will be the featured back. GoldenSports.Net recently caught up with Pinnix to learn about his hopes for the year.

Amir Pinnix is a 2003 graduate of Malcolm X Shabazz High School. He was ranked the 20th-best fullback by ESPN's Tom Lemming. Pinnix was a three-time all-city, all-conference and all-area performer who rushed for 1,200 yards with 15 touchdowns as a senior. Pinnix was a Honor Roll student and National Honor Society member.

How are you feeling after missing most of spring practice?

"I feel pretty good. I'm ready to go. I'm trying to get myself mentally prepared for the upcoming season and go out and play a pretty good ballgame for the Gopher fans."

You had 206 yards against Michigan State last season, is that the kind of Amir Pinnix we are going to see?

"I hope so. I just have to be myself and come out and try to be as productive as possible and do what I can and stay within my own game."

Did you learn from being around Barber, Maroney and Russell?

"We learned from each other every day. We learned how to prepare and stay mentally ready and go out and play your hardest every down."

Any regrets coming here from New Jersey?

"No regrets at all. I love Minnesota."

How many other schools recruited you out there?

"Just about all the schools in the Big East and a lot of schools in the Big Ten."

What sold you on Minnesota?

"The running game and a great coaching staff. They had a great offensive running attack."

That's what sells the running backs on this program?

"Exactly. That's what sells it in this program, the running game. A great team attitude. Minneapolis and Minnesota is a beautiful city and a beautiful state."

How important is Justin Valentine?

"Valentine is my guy. He'll be able to come in on short-yardage situations, goal-line situations and give whatever running back a break. He's a great back also."

Any doubt that you can replace Gary Russell?

"I wish Gary could be here with us. I love Gary to death, like a brother. We still stay in contact."

What types of things did you work on during the offseason on be ready for this year when you are going to be more of a featured back?

"I tried to work on my footwork and techniques. Really know my assignments. Really try to know the offense inside and out."

People wonder about the team's rushing attack, losing two great running backs. But obviously, you put up great numbers when you got the opportunity. Do you have a little chip on your shoulder and say, "We've had great running backs with our line and hopefully my playmaking and Cupito's play-action, that we are going to be fine at the running back position?"

"Having a chip on your shoulder, you have to play football, period. You are always going to have people that doubt you and people that don't believe in you. So, having a chip on our shoulder is not a bad thing. I think that we have a chip on our shoulder as a team, because people do not expect much out of us, so we are looking forward to coming out and surprising a lot of people."

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