Though he was careful to point out that the comparison was made in a relative sense, Potosi High football coach Mark Casey delivered mighty high praise for running back Brandon Bourbon, a four-star senior signee from Potosi, Mo., who will join the Kansas University football team this summer.
“The first person that I think about comparing him to is a player like (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson because he does run so hard, but he’s also elusive enough and fast enough to make people miss,” Casey said. “But until a couple years ago, we didn’t really realize how good of a player he was going to be.”
It didn’t take long for people in the Class 3 Missouri town of just under 3,000 people that sits 56 miles southwest of St. Louis to figure it out. Bourbon, 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, credits his family for that.
“My sophomore year, I was a little timid,” Bourbon said. “But in the offseason, my dad and my uncle told me, ‘Dude, just run.’ So that’s what I started to do. And that’s the only way to go — as hard as you can run every play from the time you get the ball to the time you’re on the ground. I don’t like to go slow when I have the ball.”
There aren’t many who can go faster.
With a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash, Bourbon decided to join new KU coach Turner Gill’s first recruiting class late in the process after initially committing to Stanford. Bourbon said he elected to pass on Stanford for many reasons.
By the end of his senior season at Potosi High — during which he ran for 2,406 yards and scored 34 touchdowns — he still had not been accepted by Stanford and also was turned off by the fact that Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh had brought in a new running-backs coach. Still, Bourbon continued to keep Stanford in the back of his mind, but ultimately chose Kansas because of one reason.
“Went on my official (visit) to Stanford, and my parents weren’t allowed to go, and then I went on my official to Kansas, and my parents could go, and that just kind of summed it all up,” Bourbon said. “(Coach Gill) was just a down-to-earth guy who I feel has good beliefs and values, and I think I’m going to like the way he conducts his team.”
Bourbon said the KU coaches told him throughout his recruitment they’d like to have options in the running game. Bourbon will compete for carries with sophomore Toben Opurum — the top returning rusher from last season — junior Rell Lewis, red-shirt freshman Deshaun Sands and senior Angus Quigley. Despite the crowded backfield, Bourbon has high hopes for his first season in Lawrence.
“I’m definitely shooting for some playing time, and I think I have a shot to get some,” he said. “I don’t want to seem cocky or anything like that, but I definitely have some things that I’m wanting to get done next year.”
That came as no surprise to Casey, who often marveled at the way Bourbon pushed himself in high school despite being “a man amongst boys.”
“Just his strength alone would’ve gotten him through,” Casey said. “But when you add that 4.4 speed to it, he was pretty unstoppable at times.”
Bourbon averaged 13.8 yards per carry during his senior season. He’s not foolish enough to believe that the number will stay there when he suits up for Kansas, but he’s not willing to concede that it won’t.
“At Oklahoma, when Adrian Peterson was there, (offensive coordinator) coach (Chuck) Long was there, too, and they ran out of the I-formation, they ran some single-back, and they did some shotgun, too. They ran kind of a mix of things, which is what I’m used to.”
Bourbon said the injured back that plagued him during the entire 2009 season would not hinder his transition to the college level. He has received treatment on his back for the last few weeks and was told by doctors that he would be able to start lifting and strengthening the back again soon.
“I’ll definitely be ready to go by the time I get there,” he said.