Special Assistant to the Head Coach/Running Backs Coach HUE JACKSON and Wide Receivers Coach JAMES URBAN
Rex Burkhead, sounds like a Brian Leonard, jack-of-all-trades-type of guy?** HJ: "Yes, he is. Again, we add another really good football player to our room. The thing that's exciting is at this point in time in the draft, you're looking for players that can really come in and make a difference and still have a chance to compete and play and obviously, this young man done a great job at Nebraska. He's had some injuries early on in his career, didn't play as much this past year, but has the characteristics that we're looking for. Again, he's another fine player that we added to the mix."
What about WR and sixth-round selection Cobi Hamilton from Arkansas?
JU: "He's along the same lines. We thought highly of Cobi coming off of the Combine and watching game film and when we talked about him, we held him in high regard. We were happy to get him where he is. He's a fine player, he'll come in and compete, he'll fit into our room, work hard, play hard and do everything he can to help us make plays and help us win football games. He's got that mentality, he's a great kid and he proved himself in the SEC this past season."
It sounds like Hamilton is a possession-type of guy, but was he able to do more this season with graduation?
JU: "Yeah. They've had some very good receivers there the past few years and he sort of played some throughout his career. This was his year to be 'the guy' and he had 90-some odd catches, a bunch of yards against very good competition, arguably the best competition there is."
Sounds like a lot of his yards are after the catch — Is that a big strength of his, breaking tackles and things like that?
JU: "That's certainly part of his game and he can stretch the field a little bit. He'll go across the middle, he plays inside and outside and he's a good all-around wide receiver."
NFL.com compared him to a receiver you've already got in your roster in Mohamed Sanu. Is that accurate?
JU: "You know, there's some comparisons there. I know Mohamed had 115 catches (his final season at Rutgers) and Cobi had 90 catches this past season. That's a lot of balls between the two of them when you're talking about those guys. They both know how to play the game. They both block, they both play hard and they do things that help you win football games and that's what attracted us to him."
What was the attraction to Burkhead?
HJ: "Again, when you look at him, he's a bigger body. He's 5-10 plus, 214 pounds. A guy who played at Nebraska in a real good conference with a real good program and when you get to this point, as I said earlier, in the draft you start looking for guys that really fit. We were really fortunate to get (second-round pick) Giovanni (Bernard) where we got him, and this was another really good football player sitting out there here in this round that we were able to get and put on our football team. We obviously as an organization thought he was the best player sitting there. We put our chips with him and he's going to come in here and give us another playmaker on this football team."
It's kind of strange on the his times because some of the descriptions say he's not the quickest guy, yet he had one of the quickest three cone drill times at the Combine:
HJ: "Right. As I said earlier, I think he has worked through some physical issues that he's had and he's really starting to get himself where he needs to be in terms of football shape. He does have one of the fastest three cone times there is. When you watch him play, you can see that show up with suddenness and quickness. To a man, I think everyone would always want faster but you can't measure a guy's heart and the way they play the game. And the guy plays the game the way you're supposed to play it."
It sounds like you guys have added two backs who are very good at catching the ball out of the backfield:
HJ: "Absolutely. We were definitely wanting to improve in that area, not that our (current) guys can't. We just want to make sure that we put guys (on the field) who have an opportunity to be three down players and need to be; I think that's very important as we continue to move forward with our offensive football team. We need to have guys that can catch the ball and catch the ball consistently, so that you get the chance to make a third-down conversion."
The two draft picks you got from the New England Patriots for former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, and you added receivers:
JU: "Coincidence (laughs)."
It looks like you had some success in college against teams from Ohio:
RB: "(Laughs) A little bit."
How does it feel to come to the Bengals?
RB: "It's awesome. It's a dream come true. Growing up and wanting to play in the NFL, then getting that call today. It's unbelievable. The Bengals have a great organization. I really respect Coach (Marvin) Lewis and a bunch of the players on the team. I'm just excited for the future and excited to play for them."
Have you had any contact with them throughout the pre-draft process?
RB: "I have, yes. I met with them at the combine, at my pro day as well, and I talked with them on the phone a little bit, too. So I knew they were interested. I had some connections with coach Ron Brown, my position coach at Nebraska. He knew some of the coaches on the staff as well, so he was giving me feedback throughout the process. So now I'm a part of it."
Most descriptions of you say that you're a 'jack of all trades' running back. Is that true?
RB: "(Laughs) Yeah, I think I'm a versatile guy. I think I can bring a lot to the table, whether it's catching balls out of the backfield, pass protecting, run the ball or split out as a wide receiver. So yeah, I think my versatility is something they were interested in and felt like I could bring to the team."
You were hampered a little by an injury last year. How is your health right now?
RB: "Yeah, 100 percent. Feeling good."
A story that has gained national notoriety in recent weeks is the one of Jack Hoffman, a seven year old who is battling brain cancer, running for a touchdown in the Nebraska spring game. Were you at the spring game for that?
RB: "Yes sir, I was."
What was that like?
RB: "It was unbelievable. It's been great working with Jack and his family, meeting with them and getting to know them more. To see him out there on the football field like he was a Husker football player, it was a very emotional time and a very exciting time. It was really inspiring for not only me, but the fans that were there and how it has spread across the nation. It was just an awesome experience."
Were you on the sideline for it? And how long have you known Jack and his family?
RB: "I met Jack my junior year. We had lunch together at the stadium one day, and I gave him a tour around there as well. We just kept in touch ever since then. And yeah, I was on the sideline at the game, videotaping it."
When did you, the players and the staff come up with that plan?
RB: "I got a call the night before from Coach (Jeff) Jamrog. He had sat down with Coach Bo (Pelini) and T.J. Zimmer, a fullback on the team, had talked about putting Jack in. He asked me what I thought, and I told him 'absolutely.' I said he'd love to do it. I ended up calling him and letting him know that he was going to do it. So it started the night before. Kind of spontaneous."
Were you surprised with all of the national notoriety it has received in recent weeks?
RB: "Yeah. It's been unreal. It's been great though, just to bring that awareness to pediatric brain cancer, which is what Jack has right now. The football team has an Uplifting Athletes chapter that raises awareness and donations for that disease. So that's helped out tremendously."
What's your reaction to going to the Bengals?
CH: "I really don't remember talking to them during this process a lot. I was really happy when they called me."
What is the biggest thing you can bring to this team?
CH: "My playmaking ability. I've made big plays since my freshman year. Hopefully I can come in and make big plays and continue to be the dominant receiver I was at Arkansas."
How much did your role change during the last year at Arkansas?
CH: "My role became bigger. We lost dominant leaders, so it was good for us as seniors to make sure everyone held on and take care of the younger guys as well."
How much of a roller coaster was last season?
CH: "It was a big roller coaster. We were thinking that we would win 10 or more games and have a great season. That didn't happen and it hurt a lot. It really shows who you are as a person. It was more of a life experience to learn things that I probably wouldn't have would that not have happened."
Is this where you expected to be drafted?
CH: "Not necessarily. I think I'm a better receiver. It's hard to say. I'm just really excited to come to Cincinnati with a chip on my shoulder. I'm going to show everyone that I should've been drafted way earlier. I'm just really excited to get to Cincinnati."
The pick that was used to select you was one that the Bengals received in exchange for Chad Ochocinco:
CH: "I didn't know that. This is all news to me."
Did you watch much of Chad, growing up?
CH: "No, not too much. I'm a fan. He's a heck of a player. He competes his butt off. That's something I pride myself on, so any receiver that competes, I'm a fan of. I'm excited to get into the meeting room with AJ Green and the rest of those guys."