LINCOLN — Nebraska became the first school to reach 300 Academic All-Americans with the selections Thursday of football players Rex Burkhead and Sean Fisher.
Burkhead was a repeat first-team pick on the units chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and sponsored by Capital One. Fisher was a second-team selection for the second straight year.
NU now has 301 all-time Academic All-Americans across all sports. Notre Dame is second with 227, and no other school has reached 200.
In football, NU bumped its total to 68 CoSIDA first-team Academic All-Americans, with Burkhead among 15 individuals with more than one selection. Burkhead also joined Austin Cassidy (2010-11) as the only Huskers to be back-to-back first-team picks since Kyle Vanden Bosch in 1999-2000.
Burkhead, a senior I-back from Plano, Texas, said it was “definitely a cool thing” last year when his portrait was added to the rest in the hallway outside the Huskers’ academic center at Memorial Stadium.
“That was a goal of mine when I came here,” Burkhead said Thursday. “My parents were big on stressing academics growing up and always putting the importance on it. It’s definitely something I wanted to attain.”
Burkhead is a history major who carries a 3.448 grade point average, and he will finish his degree in 312 years when he graduates next week. He ranks No. 5 on the Huskers’ all-time rushing chart (3,189 yards) heading into his final game in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1.
Beyond football, Burkhead said he wants to teach and coach, preferably at the high school level.
Burkhead also was in New York earlier this week to be honored as a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete. Others recognized include 2011 Outland Trophy winner Barrett Jones of Alabama, Heisman Trophy candidate Manti Te’o of Notre Dame and Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley.
“It was a huge honor,” Burkhead said.
Fisher, a senior linebacker from Millard North, maintains a 4.00 grade point average in business administration/pre-medicine and will graduate next May. Fisher currently is going through the application process for med school, and he already has been accepted at the University of Chicago and will interview Friday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The long and impressive list of former NU Academic All-Americans makes it a special achievement, he said.
“You look at some of the people in that company, and they’re not only good athletes but it’s what they’ve gone and done outside of football,” Fisher said. “Just to be considered in that same company …
“And any time you’re considered for anything on a national scale, it’s obviously a big deal and a cool experience.”
Dennis Leblanc, NU’s senior associate athletic director for academics, said he couldn’t think of “two better guys” than Burkhead and Fisher to push the Huskers to the 300 plateau.
“These individuals, you kind of point them in the right direction and they take off and do their own thing,” Leblanc said. “I talked to Rex and Sean earlier today and I told them, ‘You’ve probably done more for the University of Nebraska than the university’s done for you.’”
Leblanc also said it was appropriate that Nebraska reached the 300 Academic All-Americans milestone before Athletic Director Tom Osborne steps down on Jan. 1, “because of all that he has stood for through all these years and all the things that he’s done for academics.”
Burkhead and Fisher were among nine Academic All-America honorees from the Big Ten, which led all conferences. Eight schools overall had at least two representatives on the teams, led by Northern Illinois with three.
Burkhead credits Leblanc and his staff for making sure he always stayed on the right track.
“I appreciate all that they’ve done for me,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t be in this position without them.”
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