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The 3-2-1: Former NU coach Bill Callahan pays tribute to Jaivorio Burkes

Nebraska has been one step ahead of the COVID-19 situation in terms of preparing for the months ahead. We discuss that and remember the life of former Husker Jaivorio Burkes in this week's 3-2-1 column.

When Jaivorio Burkes started at right tackle in 2007 for Nebraska, he became just the second true freshman to start on an offensive line in school history.
When Jaivorio Burkes started at right tackle in 2007 for Nebraska, he became just the second true freshman to start on an offensive line in school history.


1 - Former coach Bill Callahan weighs in on the life of Jaivorio Burkes

Since Bill Callahan left Lincoln in 2007, he has made no public statement or comments about anything Nebraska-related.

On Wednesday, I reached out to the Cleveland Browns for a statement from Callahan on the passing of former Husker offensive lineman Jaivorio Burkes, who died this past week of a brain aneurysm at the age of 31.

In less than two hours, I heard back from Callahan on the life of Burkes and the type of player and person he was.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jaivorio Burkes. From the moment he stepped on the field for me at Nebraska, it was clear Jaivorio was not only a special player, but a special teammate, friend and person. As a coach, he embodied everything you want in one of your players and he will be greatly missed by many. I extend my heartfelt sympathies and condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.”
— Bill Callahan on the loss of Jaivorio Burkes

Callahan's quick response alone tells you the impact Burkes had, even over his short career at Nebraska.

In 2007 Callahan made the decision to start Burkes at right tackle before a game at Texas, where the Longhorns had the nation's sixth-best rushing defense. The Huskers fell short that day, but Burkes helped pave the way up front for running back Marlon Lucky to rush for over 100 yards on 24 carries against a UT front that featured many future NFL players. Burkes wasn't even familiar with the entire offense at that point, but his natural athletic ability allowed him to make plays and win up-front.

Heading into the 2008 season, Burkes was expected to have a breakthrough sophomore year under new head coach Bo Pelini, but medical conditions forced him to walk away from the game after that season.

“He has all the tools,” former NU and NFL offensive lineman Matt Slauson said in the spring of 2008 in a Lincoln Journal Star article. “He has the longest arms I’ve ever seen. His power and his legs, as soon as he locks onto a guy and extends his arms, they’re going down every time. He has amazing power. … He can grab a guy and just toss him on the ground the way Carl Nicks would, but with a lot more aggression than Nicks.”

Comparing Burkes to Nicks is all you need to know. Before injuries ended Nicks' NFL career, he was the highest-paid offensive guard in league history. He also won a Super Bowl ring in New Orleans.

Current LSU secondary coach Bill Busch recruited Burkes to Nebraska out of Pheonix in the class of 2007, and at that time there was no doubt he was eventually headed to the NFL.

"Jaivorio Burkes was the most talented offensive lineman I had ever seen. He had Hall of Fame talent and a Hall of Fame heart. His personality would light up a room."
— Bill Busch on the life of Jaivorio Burkes

Busch would go on to say this week he felt Burkes was an eventual first-round draft pick, as he was a part of the "Phoenix Five" in Nebraska's 2007 recruiting class. Future NFL draft picks Prince Amukamara, Marcel Jones and Eric Hagg would all go on to join Burkes in Lincoln from Phoenix in 2007.

Amukamara was a first-round draft pick in 2011 - the last one in program history. Burkes was destined for that same path, has he held 63 different scholarship offers in high school.

He joined Slauson, Tyler Moore, Jacob Hickman and Brenden Jaimes as the only true freshmen to have started a game on the offensive line in school history.

What's unique about Burkes from the others is Slauson played a year of Prep School before college, Hickman was a grayshirt that had a full-year on campus, and Moore was an early enrollee. Both Jaimes and Burkes were the only two linemen in that group of five that started as true freshmen without being on campus for the spring.

Nebraska will start unorganized workouts on Monday.
Nebraska will start unorganized workouts on Monday. (Nate Clouse)

2 - Nebraska is one of the only teams that will start unorganized workouts on June 1

Most schools around the country will be starting unorganized workouts anywhere from June 8 to July 1.

Nebraska, Memphis, Wyoming and Louisville are the only ones I've seen that plan to reopen their football facilities on June 1 - the earliest the NCAA will allow.

A big reason why NU can hit the ground running on June 1 has to do with the fact almost all of the Huskers' veteran players have been back in Lincoln since early May. They underwent a strict quarantine and a COVID-19 testing process upon arrival to Lincoln.

With the help of the University of Nebraska Med Center, they were able to be out in front of this process. They utilized South Stadium as a drive-thru testing area and empty on-campus dorm buildings to quarantine players upon arrival.

That has put NU in a position where the entire Big Ten has access to the transition plan Nebraska used with their student-athletes, as they've been very big in properly moving the college sports world forward.

Now all eyes are going to be on the month of June, as we study what the next move this virus will make. The month of June will ultimately lay the groundwork for what the 2020 season might look like.

3 - TV selection process put on hold for the 2020 football season

No surprise, but the television networks officially announced this week that the selection process and release of kickoff times has been put on hold until further notice.

Usually, this time of year, Nebraska fans are worried if the home opener will be a night kickoff, or if big games against teams like Ohio State and Penn State will be aired in prime time. Right now, I think I speak for most people out there: people just want games.

It won't matter if we have kickoffs at 8 am, that will mean football is back. The networks will definitely have some tough decisions to make as different local and state politics could play a factor in some of these different venues.

Groundbreaking has been put on hold for Nebraska's $156 million football facility.
Groundbreaking has been put on hold for Nebraska's $156 million football facility.


1 - How will Nebraska handle their ticket situation in 2020?

Iowa State's Jamie Pollard came out and announced this week that they were limiting capacity to 30,000 fans at Jack Trice Stadium in 2020. That's easy to come out and say when you only have 22,000 season ticket holders. It might also move the needle for folks to buy season ticket packages vs. single game only tickets.

Nebraska will not be in a situation like that. The only single game tickets NU sells are those returned by opponents. The question I have is what is the actual number of paid season ticket holders when you take away student, faculty and player family seats? The highest number of scanned tickets in recent years was 80,865 for the 2016 Oregon game. The 88,000 to 90,000 NU announces on Saturdays include stadium workers, media, etc.

Are there 65,000 paid season ticket holders? 70,000? That seems like a fair guess before you add in student, faculty, family and opponent ticket allotments.

The bottom line is Nebraska is going to wait as long as possible before making this decision. They know how big of a deal football tickets are for people. I think one thing you have to do is survey all ticket holders if they are comfortable attending games this year. Then you take away all those people and probably create a process that is based on booster priority points and preferencing your selections by a ranking system.

I also think you will see all tickets delivered digitally and that will give them more time to decide capacity week-to-week based on the COVID-19 situation during that period.

2 - Are you concerned NU isn't breaking ground on the new $156 million football facility?

On Friday Moos came out and officially announced groundbreaking on Nebraska's new football facility has been put on hold.

What does that mean going forward? When will NU break ground on their new facility? My best guess would be late in the summer. We know nearly all of the $100 million in private donations are in hand. The big thing now is waiting for the right moment that makes sense, along with measuring the type of financial damage COVID-19 is going to cause to both the academic and athletics side of things at Nebraska.

What type of stadium capacity will we see at Nebraska in 2020?
What type of stadium capacity will we see at Nebraska in 2020? (Nate Clouse)

ONE PREDICTION: 12 game season with limited capacity 

There are lots of different scenarios being thrown out there on what the 2020 football season is going to look like.

Will there be fewer games? A later start date? Some fans? No fans? It's all been discussed. I still believe the most likely scenario remains teams will play a 12-game schedule as is, but there will be limited fan capacity in stadiums.

A lot of this is going to depend on the month of June. What will happen with COVID-19 cases and deaths nationally by June 30? Administrators and leaders are going to wait as long as possible before they make a call. July 1 to July 15 seems like a logical point where some sort of decision has to be made. We've seen quite a downturn in the last 7 to 10 days. If it stays that way, things will continue to move forward.

Sean Callahan can be reached at and he can be heard each day at 6:45 am and 5:05 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap-Tuesday's at 7 pm.