Linebacker James Burgess showed up for Monday’s press conference wearing a T-shirt from his high school years with the Homestead Broncos in Miami. On back of the shirt is an outline of four fingers with the words:
“Broncos,” “Dictate,” “Intimidate” and “Dominate.”
Not surprising, given the genuflection for football in south Florida. He was a captain and was selected to the Marine All-American Game in his senior year despite missing most of the season with a broken hand. The six-foot, 210-pound sophomore is known for his toughness, speed and efficiency on defense.
Burgess is currently tied with senior Preston Brown in tackles with 13 solo takedowns while being credited with nine assists, including four tackles, three assists and a pass deflection in Louisville 27-13 win over Kentucky. His name gets mentioned a lot when the other team has the ball.
“I’m blessed with the talent that God gave me and I’m here to work every day,” he said. “I just want to go out there and get better and better. Like the coaches say, ‘Defense wins games, defense wins championships'” No concern about national rankings, “we let the coaches worry about that. I just want to play my best on defense and just win games.”
Burgess knows Florida International will be up for Saturday’s upcoming game. “We know a lot of their players and they have always played us well,” he said. “It’s a big rivalry because so many know and have played against each other.”
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“One of the toughest tasks for a coach is to get his team ready for a game in which his team is highly favored. I want our team to constantly play like we have something to prove. A lot of teams know how to be successful but very few teams can handle success. We’re really never playing an opponent — our players need to understand that — we’re playing ourselves. We never want to be satisfied. Satisfaction leads to a lack of hunger.
“FIU is a team that beat us at home three years ago. Last year we go down there and beat them by seven. We understand the task that’s ahead of us. We as a coaching staff need to get our players focused, get them prepared and go play a football game.”
Citing Saturday’s performance against UK, Strong said the UofL football team is not in a position to be blowing teams out. “We were on the road in a rivalry game,” he said. “I expected it to be a tough game. I told our players that we were going to get their best shot.”