Two years ago, Richie Incognito was but another star recruit. Being courted by many, he went through the paces, took his visits and eventually decided on a school. Being from Glendale, Arizona, most anticipated that either Arizona or Arizona State would be receiving the services of this standout lineman, but alas, that's not what happened. Richie committed to NU. What happened not long after that was the defining moment for Richie as a team that once considered him now becomes a team he might just have a little malice for and it might all be due to a small case of sour grapes. "It's more than a little (personal) with them." Richie said. "There's a whole little thing going on with this. After I committed to Nebraska, ASU coaches said I wasn't explosive enough for the Pac Ten anyway, so I just decided to go where real linemen go."
The angst is obvious, the vendetta it would seem, quite alive, but Richie says that it's nothing to do with the players, but the team itself. "Even when I lived in Arizona, I never liked them (Arizona State)." Richie said. "So, that's just my motivation right now."
And what else could motivate a young man so much that he would literally bristle at the mere mention of their names? To be honest, not much doesn't motivate young Incognito as even his father stated that this is something he's known all along. "He's been like that since day one." Richie Sr. said. "Richie just has that fire in him." A fire that gets him noticed, but sometimes, not always in the right way.
You see, Richie is actually far tamer than he was just a year ago. A young freshman eager to prove and eager to play, Incognito played hard, talked hard and some took exception. With that alleged affront, tempers flared and as they say, "it was on." "I really didn't know what I was doing last year, so I was just running around, trying to make plays and wasn't really paying attention to who I was hitting." Incognito stated. The common result to altercations on the field is having to run the stairs. Something Richie has become far too familiar with. "I don't know how many stairs I ran, but I know I did my share."
I know what you are thinking. I can see it in your eyes. You like this kind of intensity. You revel in the flames that burn deep within Incognito. If only but for a little direction, his intensity intact, how great could he be? It's a question we all ask when any player comes in, but when this player is a freshman starting on an offensive line at Nebraska, it's not rhetorical. We simply want to know. How good can Richie Incognito be? Richie won't stand on a soapbox and say that he is good or that he is special. He will tell you though that whatever it takes to get there, that's the least of what he is willing to give. "My goal was to start ( this year)." Richie said. "So, I went out there, worked out every day, worked hard over the Summer and now, I just want to get the job done."
The Job. Well, right now, it's Arizona State and everyone (even me) seems to want to talk about anything other than the actual game. But, there is a game and at least on defense, ASU is noticeably stout in some areas. Not the least of which is at one of the starting rush end spots where pre-season All-american, Terrell Suggs resides. He's fast, he's strong and he's approaching most of ASU's career records for tackles for losses and sacks. He's someone Richie does have to concentrate on, but Richie already knows it. In fact, Richie knew about Suggs long before either you or I. "I watched him play in high school, so I know how good he is." Richie said. "He played running back in high school so that will tell you a little about how good of an athlete he is." As to Richie's focus on Suggs as someone he might be matched up against all game long, as you would guess, Richie is up to the task. "I'm really looking forward to it." Incognito stated. "I think it's going to be a great test for me and a great test for him. I think it's just going to be a great game."
There's nothing subtle about Richie Jr. He says what he means, means what he says and doesn't shy away from just about anything. It's true that personalities as up-front as Incognito's tend to put some off and even tick some off at times, as his energy, combined with his youth can often be a volatile combination. Make no mistake about one thing though. This game might be personal in some respect and this might be a game he is pointing to as vital and even, a must win. It however, is but a step in the direction he and all the other Huskers want to go. A step from one win to another. A step from being the underdog to favorite and a step to a chance at a conference title and maybe even more. And, if there is one thing Richie knows a lot about by now, it's about steps or should I say stairs. Any analogy you use, for Richie, this is just the beginning.