Lincoln, NE - Yesterday when I was on 590 AM ESPN in Omaha, I was asked who was stepping up on offense and becoming a leader. Of course the obvious answer is Rex Burkhead. Not only is he a two-year starter, but has three young freshman backs to show the ropes.
I pointed out Rex, but threw out another name as well. It was that of senior wide receiver Brandon Kinnie. I'm sure more than one or two Husker fans gave their radios an awkward look when I said it, but today we started learning more about Kinnie and how he has impacted this team this summer.
Kinnie started to lead a charge for this team to become more close in the spring. It started with just his position, the receivers playing laser tag or going out to eat. This summer, the movement spread to the whole team.
Kinnie put on barbecues, took the guys to movies, and schooled his teammates in NCAA Football 2011.
"This summer went really fast, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the bonding and everything we accomplished as a team," said Kinnie before Nebraska Fan Day. "This is no knock on our guys from last year, but I feel the bond this year in the locker room. I love going to weight lifting, running, you just have fun with these guys in the locker room. There has never been a dull moment with these guys."
It's usually this time of year where we begin to learn who the leaders on the roster are. It's not always seniors, but in his final year, Kinnie feels it's his turn to step up.
"These young guys are just fun guys to be around. They are all humble, want to learn, take the criticism well, and want to get better," said the wide receiver. "I have told them I'm no different. Yeah I have played, but we are the same people. We have the same coaches. I'm just doing my best to be a better leader for those guys, as a leader you can't take any days off. You have to bring it everyday.
"The coaches tell us all the time this is our team. They call the plays, but we are the leaders...I told the younger guys, hold me accountable just like I hold you accountable."
After just a 15 catch sophomore season, Kinnie led Nebraska in receptions in 2010, snagging 44 from Taylor Martinez. He collected nearly 500 yards and had five touchdowns in the process.
We also learned today, he wants to help the team in other areas.
"If JP lets me (laughter), I want to do kick returns. Punt return, I don't know. The ball is pretty high. Kick return I can do, but punt return it's not for me."