BOSTON (CBS) — It didn’t take long for Rex Burkhead to learn the “Patriot Way.”
The running back figures to be a key special teams player after joining a crowded New England backfield as a free agent back in March, but he’s used to that after sitting behind Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernand in Cincinnati. The 27-year-old spent four years with the Bengals and only racked up 87 carries (74 of which came last season), but he saved his best game for his last with the Bengals, rushing for 119 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 27 carries in Week 17 last season.
With a 5-foot-10, 210-pound frame, Burkhead looks like a wrecking ball on the field, someone built to carry a football for a living. But whether it’s as feature back or special teams contributor, Burkhead is ready to do whatever Bill Belichick asks of him.
“Keep your mouth shut, do your job,” Burkhead replied to WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton when asked what he knows about the Patriots. “Work hard and come in and make sure you’re getting the job done.
“Every single day is a competition and the expectations are high. You have to be ready to go,” he added. “You can never be off your game. You have to step in and be ready to work. That’s why they’ve had success in the past and that’s why I’m here.”
That’s what makes Belichick the best of the best: His ability to make his players better despite making them feel uncomfortable every time they step on the field.
“He brings out the best in us,” Burkhead said of his new boss. “The way he does that is just, it’s unreal. He makes sure that every day you’re challenged, that you’re not coming and just going through the motions. He makes sure you’re uncomfortable, and by doing that, making sure you’re on top of your game.”
He’s also pretty excited to be sharing the field with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady. Burkhead said it was “unreal” when he first met the five-time Super Bowl champ.
“I’ve always had the most respect for him, just from his leadership. You can tell from his eyes the competitiveness he has every single time he steps on that field,” Burkhead said of No. 12. “Now to be playing with him and working with him, it’s really neat.”
Along with a successful football career, Burkhead graduated from Nebraska in just three-and-a-half years, earning a degree in history. His impact at the university goes far deeper than just football though. Burkhead is heavily involved with the “Team Jack Foundation,” which raises money for pediatric brain cancer research. It was started by the family of Jack Hoffman, a young boy who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Burkhead became close with Jack and his family during his time at Nebraska, first treating them to lunch and a tour of the team’s facilities.
In 2013, the then-11-year-old captured the hearts of the country when he ran for a 69-yard touchdown at Nebraska’s spring game.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” recalled Burkhead.
That moment went on to win an ESPY, and the “Team Jack Foundation” has raised over $4 million for pediatric brain cancer.
“There is more to be done and I’m doing whatever I can,” said Burkhead, who is planning to host an event in New England sometime in the near future.
He may be joining a crowded backfield, but there’s little doubt that Burkhead will fit in well with the Patriots — both on and off the field.