This Sunday, Rex Burkhead, a 2009 graduate of Plano Senior High School and running back for the New England Patriots, will play in his second Super Bowl. We spoke to him last week about getting ready for the big game. Rex also answered questions from some of our Facebook followers.
PM: Hey, Rex. Where are you guys? Are you in Boston now?
Rex: Yeah. I’m at the stadium. We just got done with meetings and practice a little while ago.
PM: How often do you come home to Plano to visit your parents [Rick and Robyn Burkhead]?
R: I stay there in my off season actually. My wife [Danielle] and I just had a little one born a couple months ago, a little boy.
PM: What’s his name?
R: It’s Jett.
PM: Oh Lordy. With that name, he better be fast like his daddy. Speaking of family, do your parents or your brother give you any advice before the big game?
R: They just try to keep me loose and make sure I’m having fun. They’ll be down there for [the Super Bowl] and I’ll see them a few days before. They really try to make sure I’m enjoying everything, enjoying the process of the Super Bowl and everything that comes with it.
PM: Well, what is your process exactly? Do you have a game day ritual that you always do for luck?
R: I’m really not too superstitious on game day rituals anymore. I used to be. I used to be terrible. [laughing] There’s a few things I’ll do in the locker room as far as warm up methods and whatnot, saying a prayer in the end zone as we run out onto the field. But other than that, I try to be as reactive as I can and just take it as it comes.
PM: Do you listen to a specific playlist to get amped up before games?
R: I start with a lot of calmer music, you know, some worship music. And then as the game gets closer, I get a little more pumped up. NF is a guy I’ve been listening to lately. He’s a Christian rapper, and I just feel like he tells it like it is. Yeah, he’s been the guy that’s kind of been my pregame songs to go to.
PM: Do you does it ever hit you: ‘I’m going to the Super Bowl again with my boys.’ How do you stay humble?
R: The coaches do a great job making sure we grow not only as players but as people as well. [My teammates] really hold each other accountable so we can become great players and great people.
PM: As you probably know, you’re facing Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Joseph Noteboom in the Super Bowl. He’s a fellow Plano Wildcat, a 2014 PSHS graduate. What do you think’s going on at the at the Plano Senior High field house to produce NFL players? Is it the magic of Plano? Is it PSHS coach Jaydon McCullough? What is it?
R: The [Plano Senior] coaching staff did a great job developing guys. The coaches at the NFL level, who used to be at the college level, were basically recruiters and used to recruit the Plano area. They know how many great players come from Plano, Allen, McKinney, the Dallas / Fort Worth area. It’s just a hotbed for players. Plano East and Plano West have had players in the NFL recently, as well. I think a lot of it is the talent and the competitiveness just across the district and Dallas / Fort Worth. Plano Senior High is doing a great job developing guys in the classroom and on the football field.
PM: You played high school football with one of the current coaches at Plano Senior High, Carson Meger. My son actually plays football for Carson right now, and asked him for some funny stories about you from high school. Apparently you, your brother, Carson and a couple other guys used to play “knee football” in the living room. You’ve got to tell us what this is.
R: It’s pretty much playing the game of football on your knees on the carpet. We bloodied so many carpets up. My mom ended up having to rip them out and put hardwood floors. And I know at another parent’s house, they did the same thing. It was super competitive. We took it to the extreme. It was just so much fun. We were such a competitive group, playing sports nonstop, trying to find different ways to play, whether it was football, basketball, whatever. Just great times.
PM: We have a few questions for you that we received from our Plano Magazine readers through Facebook. Shamus Ryan is 15. He’s at Vines High School right now, doing off-season training. He wanted to know when you started getting approached by colleges.
R: My first offer was from North Texas, actually, after my freshman year in high school. Coach Dodge who was at Southlake Carroll – we had just faced him in the playoffs – ended up getting the job at North Texas, and he ended up offering me right after that. Right then, that’s when offers kinda started coming in. And then after sophomore year, many more started coming in.
PM: Shamus also wanted to know: Do you think playing multiple sports helped you be a better football player?
R: I think playing multiple sports is huge. I wish I had played more sports, actually, in high school. I wish I’d played baseball and ran track, as well, other than just football and basketball. I think developing those other skills from other sports help you and the sport you may specialize in later on. I think it helps prevent burnout, you know, as well as developing different muscles and conditioning.
PM: This question is from Terence Vance Crouch. After being drafted to the Bengals, you spent a large amount of time on special teams before getting the opportunity to showcase your talents as a running back. What would you tell a young player who’s feeling discouraged by playing exclusively on special teams right now?
R: Yeah, just to make the most of it, to be patient. You never know when your opportunity will come on offense or defense. Even if it doesn’t, there are still ways you can contribute to the team. It’s a team game, and whatever role you may have, you want to do it to the best of your ability because you can have a huge impact on the game. So yeah, just to make the most of it.
PM: Do you think that attitude has a lot to do with that?
R: Definitely. If you have a poor attitude in the NFL, you’re probably not gonna be around for long. It’s definitely an attitude thing, and understanding that this is what you have to do. This is the job you have to do, and you gotta get it done.
PM: The next question comes from a die-hard Patriots fan, originally from Boston and now living in Plano. Dave Fopiano wanted to know: Who are the worse drivers, Boston drivers or Dallas drivers?
R: [laughing] Boston, Boston, by far. It’s pretty bad here.
PM: My son, Dylan, who plays football under Coach Meger, wanted to ask you: What workouts do you dread? Is there a day where it’s a little harder to get motivated?
R: Track Days.
PM: So, running?
R: Yeah, running. In the off season, I have a day, it’s called 150. So it’s 150-meter sprints. We do 10 of them, and it’s only a three-minute rest in between each of them. It’s all out, and they’re not fun. But you know, at the end of the day, it makes you better.
PM: You said off season. So are you doing that training locally here in Plano?
PM: Facebook reader Steve Grandinetti wanted to know if you have talked to Jack Hoffman lately, and if you could give us an update on how he’s doing. [Jack Hoffman is a boy from Atkinson, Nebraska, who has been a fan since Rex played for the University of Nebraska. Jack was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer at age five, and Rex has since become a close family friend of the Hoffmans, and a champion for Team Jack Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds to find a cure for pediatric brain cancer.]
R: He was actually at the AFC Championship Game this past weekend. His family made the drive from Nebraska. I was fortunate enough to see him afterwards for a little bit. He actually had a seizure at halftime. And they went out to the car, and his dad was like, ‘Hey, we can head back home, or do you want to go back in and watch the rest of the game?’ And Jack, you know, the tough kid he is, he was like, ‘Yeah, I want to go back and watch the game.’ He’s doing good, but he’s still battling, having some troubles, seizures. He’s growing, he’s almost as tall as me, which is just crazy.
PM: How old is Jack now?
R: He’s thirteen. Thinking back on seven, almost eight years now, when we first met, it is crazy. And you know, we’re having a Team Jack Trifecta event in Plano on April 6.
PM: Yeah, we were there last year. It’s an awesome event because it’s for anybody. You don’t have to be a football person; you don’t have to be a basketball person. You can do just the 5K or all three of the events.
Rex Burkhead will be back in Plano on April 6 for the 3rd Annual Team Jack Trifecta. The Trifecta features three events in one day, starting out with a 5k fun run/walk; then a youth football camp for kids ages six through 14; and wrapping up with an adult 3-on-3 basketball tournament. In the first two years of the Trifecta, over $100,000 for pediatric brain cancer research was raised. Registration is now open at http://www.teamjackfoundation.org/2019Trifecta.
Watch Rex and the New England Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams at Super Bowl LIII at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 3.