The secret to Ben Burr-Kirven's fast start? His speed, of course. "I can move a little bit when I need to," he says.
During their recruiting visit to Seattle in 2014, Washington quarterback Jake Browning got his first glimpse of linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven. Browning’s initial reaction was probably the same reaction many had when Burr-Kirven first put on a UW uniform: This little dude is supposed to be a major-college linebacker?
“I remember coming on my recruiting visit and thinking, ‘OK, who is this guy?'” Browning said Tuesday. “Because he wasn’t very big. And they were like, ‘No, this guy flies all over the place.’ And that’s why I’m a player and not a recruiter.”
Four years later, Burr-Kirven’s fast start to his senior season isn’t a surprise to Browning.
“Oh yeah, he’s a mad man. He runs all over the place,” Browning said. “But it’s not very surprising. He’s been doing it all fall camp and all practice. It’s never like he just shows up on game days. It’s a constant with him.”
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Burr-Kirven, the Huskies’ 6-foot, 221-pound middle linebacker, had a career-high 20 tackles in Saturday’s victory over Arizona State — 14 of them solo, plus two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery — and was named the Pac-12’s defensive player of the week for the second week in a row.
The secret to Burr-Kirven’s fast start? His speed, of course.
In UW’s victory over North Dakota earlier this month, Burr-Kirven was clocked at 21.8 mph by the Catapult GPS tracking system the Huskies wear during practices and games. For comparison, UW receiver John Ross was clocked at 24 mph and receivers Dante Pettis and Chico McClatcher have been in the 22-mph range.
“I can move a little bit when I need to,” Burr-Kirven said with a grin Tuesday.
Through four games, Burr-Kirven is fifth in the nation with 53 tackles — after leading the team last year with 84 in 13 games. He was surprised when he saw the number “20” next to his name on the stat sheet after Saturday’s win.
“They ran a lot of plays in the areas I can get to, and if the ball’s up I’m going to keep running to the ball until it’s down,” he said. “There were just a lot of plays where I got to get there. The D-line did a great job eating up blockers and if I get there hopefully I’m going to get the guy on the ground, and I got to do that a lot this weekend.”
On Tuesday, Burr-Kirven was named the Bronko Nagurski Trophy national defensive player of the week, presented by the Football Writers Association of America.