On Saturday during the Jayhawks open scrimmage Brandon Bourbon was one of the players that had an eye-catching performance. Although it is just one practice several Jayhawk fans left Memorial Stadium impressed with the redshirt freshman.
Bourbon was ready to show people what he can do with the ball in his hands. Last year there was a lot of talk that Bourbon could play as a true freshman. The Kansas coaches admitted a couple weeks ago they even considered pulling his redshirt as far into the season as week seven.
Last spring, with only two scrimmages in the books, Bourbon broke his ankle on April 18. Once again his chance to prove himself suffered a setback.
"It was tough I have never been injured like that," Bourbon said. "I put in a lot of hours getting ready to get back. There was a lot of time in the training room and I am happy that it is over."
The road back wasn't easy. It took a lot of hours in the training room and help from Murphy Grant, the Director of Sports Medicine.
"It started off just range of motion stuff like picking up rocks and all kinds of lateral movement," Bourbon said. "It turned into jogging and then getting my running back more. After such a long break it feels so un-natural to start running again. You have to get that back and the explosion. That's the final part."
Bourbon didn't get clearance to move full speed until the final two weeks of summer conditioning. His vertical jump was only a half-inch shorter than when he was full strength a year ago. That was a sign he was ready to get back and do all of the drills with his teammates.
"At the end I got to do everything the guys were doing," he said. "It was tough."
Offensive coordinator Chuck Long said the fiercest competition on the team is running back. There are several quality backs trying to earn playing time. James Sims, the team's leader last season, is back and only a sophomore. The talk has been buzzing about true freshmen Darrian Miller and Anthony Pierson.
It was up to Bourbon to prove himself once again. That's nothing new to the Potosi native. He's had to show his coaches that he can play running back ever since he started. Although he is the all-time rushing leader in Potosi history he always had to fight for his position.
"All the way back in Pee Wee football they had him on defense," said his father, Roger Bourbon. "In grade school they had him at fullback and said he had to work harder if he wanted to carry the ball. He's always had to prove what he can do."
As a freshman in high school he averaged 23 yards a carry and the next year he had 600 yards rushing. Yet he had to fight to win the starting job going into his junior campaign. It was his junior season at Potosi where claimed the full-time job piling up 2420 yards.
After his junior recruiting film circulated, scholarship offers came from Kansas, Stanford, Missouri, BYU, Missouri, and Notre Dame. Harvard was impressed with his ability in the classroom and football they also extended an offer.
"He's always worked hard at whatever he's done," Roger Bourbon said. "He would go to practice and then go lift weights after. There were nights he wouldn't get home until after 9:00 p.m. He's the type of person that will do whatever it takes to be number one."
Roger said Brandon never got down on himself after the injury.
"Most kids would have probably taken it harder," he said. "He was surprised how quick he came back. He's always been big on staying in shape and takes care of his body. I don't know if it will be this year or next year, but before he leaves KU he will earn a starting job. That's just the type of kid he is."
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