Burgess is back for a big senior year

By on September 1, 2015

There was a point in time when linebacker James Burgess was unsure if he would ever put a Louisville jersey on again because of his pursuit to play in the NFL.

But Burgess, who was voted a preseason All-ACC performer earlier this month, will once again lead the linebacking core onto the field this fall.

The 6-foot senior from Homestead, Florida is glad he returned for his final season as a Cardinal.

“It’s the best choice I’ve made in my life. It gave me another year to prepare my craft, build my teammates, and I enjoy playing with a great coach and staff,” Burgess said. “I think we have the best, if not the best, defensive coordinator out there in college football. It helps to have another year to build my craft so when I go to the next level, I’m ready.”

After coming to Louisville as an All-American, Burgess has lived up to his high school rankings by being one of the most consistent contributors on the defense for the past few years.

Burgess finished third on the team in tackles each of the past two years and totaled six career interceptions to go along with 21 tackles for a loss.

He played in every game his sophomore and junior year, starting 25 of the 26 contests.

With 170 careers tackles to his name, Burgess is one of the more experienced members on a talented defense.

“I lead by example. I’m the older guy, the guy who has made a lot of plays and played a lot of football here and they listen to me. So anything I can help them with and just leading by example and show them how we’re going to do things right,” Burgess said. “We go full speed and go harder and take advantage of every opportunity they give us.”

On a defense that lost playmakers such as Lorenzo Mauldin, Gerod Holliman and James Sample among others, Burgess has a better understanding of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. As a leader and captain of the defense, Burgess continues to learn the scheme in year two.

“We have more experience. It’s not like we didn’t know what we were doing, but we weren’t completely aware of everyone’s job,” Burgess said. “When you get another year, you know more than one job and it helps you. You know where your help is. It helps you play faster.”

“James has done a tremendous job working on himself from a mental standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, since we’ve been here. He’s one of the best leaders on the team, he takes ownership of the defense, he’s a very hard worker on the field,” Grantham said. “He’s bought into our system and what we do. He’s made a lot of plays for us over the last year and impacted the game.”

Though Burgess been a part of 32-7 record three years including a Sugar Bowl victory, he comes into his senior year with some unfinished business.

“I left with a bad taste in my mouth with Florida State coming back in the second half and losing to Virginia. I know that was tough for this city and this program. I want to come back this year and beat those teams and go undefeated and win the ACC tournament,” Burgess said.

Burgess and the defense can set the season off to a great start with a win over sixth ranked Auburn opening weekend in Atlanta. Throughout summer workouts and fall camp, the looming powerhouse opponent added a little more incentive for the players, including Burgess.

“It motivates us a lot knowing that we’re playing a top ten team. It gives us that extra edge in practice to go harder; it give us the extra edge in the weight room; it gives us the extra edge in conditioning to run a little harder,” Burgess said. “Even in our condition, our first three games are in twelve days. Our first six games are our very big games so it’s the beginning of the season and we have to start off strong.”

Despite being one of the most productive members of the defensive front seven the past two seasons, Burgess isn’t concerned about continuing to climb the program’s career tackles list or winning the Butkus award.

“I haven’t set any personal goals. I want to do whatever I can to help my team. I’m not a big guy on stats so I don’t really set any stat goals,” Burgess said. “I definitely want to win. I most definitely want to beat the teams we lost to last year and finish the game strong this year is my main focus.”

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