Rudy Burgess was one of the greatest all-purpose Sun Devil football players in ASU history. He is one of only 14 players in NCAA history (and the only ASU player) to have over 1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 return yards in his college career. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and also spent some time with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. Rudy currently lives in Arizona and was recently hired as a Management Intern for ASU Football under new head coach Todd Graham.
DHD: During the recruiting process, how did you end up at ASU and what other schools did you consider?
RB: Well, I am from a small town in Edwards (Air Force Base), California and my Dad set up everything for me as far as recruiting. The way I was found was through (former ASU receiver) Derek Hagan. His high school was 10-15 miles away and we had a game against his team. I was from a smaller school and we got a lot of exposure by playing those guys. By Hagan getting recruited by ASU, that kind of put me on the map as the next receiver in line. I got recruited by most of the Pac-10 schools and a few others like Michigan and Iowa. I took official trips to UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State and ASU. I chose ASU because of the proximity to home, the weather, scenery and the campus.
DHD: You wore #3 at ASU. There is a strong tradition of players wearing that number including Keith Poole, Kevin Miniefield and most recently Omar Bolden. How did you end up with that number?
RB: I was #2 in high school and when I came to ASU as a true freshman I had to wear #86. I wanted to wear a single digit or something in the teens, but I had to wear the big #86 wrapped around me. Mike Williams was our running back that year and he wore #3. He was kind of like my mentor and it was his senior year, so I told him “Since you’re leaving, you’ve got to do something for me so I can get your number.” Our equipment manager had a sign up sheet, so I just checked #3 in all the boxes and I got it in spring ball the next year and I just ran with it.
DHD: After spending your time here at ASU, what do you think is special about being a Sun Devil player?
RB: Basically, the family orientation. After we are done with this interview, I am going back to ASU to talk with one of my advisors because they are always going to be there to help us. It’s always someplace where you can come back and they are going to appreciate you whatever kind of career you had at ASU. If you come back, they are going to help you regardless.
DHD: What kind of similarities do you see between you and other ASU all-purpose players Kyle Williams and currently Jamal Miles?
RB: Jamal Miles, that dude is good. We do a lot the same things. He threw a touchdown pass and so did I. ASU will always need one of those all-purpose type backs. At the same time, I will admit he is a lot faster than me when I was there, hitting those holes and being so shifty. With Kyle, I was his host on his recruiting trip so I knew him coming out of high school. After I saw his highlight tape I was like, “Man, who is that kid?” I knew when he came to ASU he was going to be a big part of the team because he is the same way. Very shifty and quick player.
DHD: You are one of only 14 players in NCAA history and the only ASU player to have over 1,000 yards rushing, 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 return yardage. Which one was the most difficult?
RB: My first game rushing was against Stanford and I carried the ball 32 times for 98 yards. I took a pounding and was out two weeks after that. I was about 175 pounds, played with the smaller receiver shoulder pads on and I couldn’t lift up my arms so they had to cut off my jersey after the game. I did learn my lesson, because during the following year when we went to the Insight Bowl, I knew I had to hit the weight room and really commit myself to get bigger and stronger.
DHD: How do the fans affect the mindset of the team on game day and filling the stands?
RB: One of my favorite things to do before games was getting off the bus, walking through the band and getting into the locker room. But getting on the field early for pregame and seeing the student section and being able to talk to some of the fans, because every game it’s not going to be the same students. Getting their feedback and talking to them and trying to live up to their expectations because you know that they are behind you 100% and you just don’t want to disappoint them. On top of that, you have thousands and thousands more in the stadium that you don’t want to disappoint, so I think connecting with the fans plays a huge part. There are a lot of guys on the team that felt the responsibility to go out and perform for the fans. One of my good friends (and former Sun Devil player) Tyrice Thompson was probably one of the most passionate. If he dropped the ball, you could see it in his face and body. And when we won or the team did something good, he was always the first one throwing pitchforks out to the fans.
DHD: If you had one message to ASU fans today, what would it be?
RB: Have faith, stay firm and don’t fall back. The players aren’t doing anything intentionally to make you feel bad. We don’t always have control given the situation.
DHD: Give me the details on your kick off return for a touchdown against USC on Thanksgiving Day in 2007?
RB: Up to that point, I had no kick returns for a touchdown. And I thought, if I’m going to do it, why not do it on a nationally televised game where everyone was going to be at home watching TV? It was a counter left return, because I got the ball and started going off to the right, then once I get to the hash, I’m supposed to plant my foot and just cut right all the way across the field. While I’m running one way, the whole team is running the opposite way. Right when I cut, I saw a hole and made one guy miss and saw daylight along the sideline. Then I see the kicker coming across the field, and I’m thinking if he gets the angle on me and I’m running too fast to try and stop and cut, but I passed him. Then the backside safety was chasing me down the field and I’m just dying and running for my life, then he barely clips my ankle at the 4 yard line and I just fell into the end zone. It was a great feeling and exciting with all the guys running up to celebrate. It was a big momentum change at the time. We said every time they score we need to bounce back
DHD: During the Sun Bowl, you caught two touchdown passes including the game winner with around a minute left on the clock. Any good stories from that game?
RB: First of all, Sam Keller was our quarterback for that game and he was really nervous because it was his first start. He was throwing up before the game and couldn’t hold it in. Andrew Walter had gotten hurt in the UofA game before that so Sam got the start. On the game winning screen pass for a touchdown, Sam called the play and said, “As soon as they come, I’m just throwing it to you so look early.” He had been getting hit all game so he got the ball away and lobbed it over the defense. After the catch, Andrew Carnahan just cleared the way, I made one cut back and into the end zone.
DHD: During your ASU career, you also threw a touchdown pass. Tell me about that play.
RB: It was my sophomore year and Derek Hagan was the receiver and Rudy Carpenter was the quarterback for a halfback sweep pass. We were at Washington State where it was cold, and coach said to make sure I take off my gloves before you run this play. I’m thinking no, it’s too cold and I can’t grip the ball. He said OK, but if you drop the ball you’re coming out of the game because it was wet. Rudy pitched me the ball, I did a little tuck to the sideline like it was a run, Hagan goes to fake block and the corner crashed down hard. Hagan takes off and puts his hand up, I backed up and threw a lob pass and he scored the touchdown. I think he broke an ASU passing record on that play also.
DHD: How did you like playing for Coach Koetter?
RB: I liked playing for Koetter. He was really business oriented. He carried himself with a lot of structure and me coming from a military background, that’s what I was used to. I understood his discipline rules where as some guys that didn’t have that growing up, might have thought it was too strict. I was able to communicate better with him, just the way he ran stuff. His offensive game plan was crazy, it almost blew your mind trying to study it. It wasn’t too complicated, but it was real specific. It wasn’t like a spread offense where you can have random guys and quick routes.
DHD: You had the opportunity to play with Andrew Walter, Rudy Carpenter and Sam Keller. Tell me about those three guys.
RB: Andrew Walter, he had a nice arm. He was a big, tall lanky dude with a nice spiral. Sam was good, he had kind of a funky release but he was more mobile than Walter. Rudy threw a nice ball also, but he wasn’t as mobile as Sam. So I had a little bit of everybody going through the years.
DHD: You finished at ASU in 2007, looking back now, what did it mean to you to wear the maroon and gold and to be a Sun Devil?
RB: Number one, it was a blessing to even get the opportunity to go play at a division one college coming from such a small area that I was from. The team was like a fraternity. Not only to be part of that, but to be the sports team that everyone comes out to support. It was almost like we had a duty to the fans and in a way we were soldiers for this community of Tempe and Arizona State. That’s how we looked at it inside the locker room to get that camaraderie. We see guys coming back from overseas and those guys put in the work to do what they’re doing to make our country proud, and that’s what we got to do for the veterans and alumni, the guys who made this program great.
DHD: Do you have any ideas to get the former players more involved with the ASU program?
RB: I guess you can call me the network guy, because I stay in touch with everyone. I try to take the initiative to stay in contact with everyone. If you want to try and build tradition at ASU, were like a family and we have one thing in common…Arizona State, the Sun Devils, the Pitchfork. We try to think of stuff to get together like barbeques or a softball team so we can just do something to stay connected. For the most part, I stay connected with a lot of the guys.
DHD: Why are you a DieHardDevil?
RB: I’m a DieHardDevil because I’m always thinking about ways to try and help the program, or do something that is related to being a Sun Devil. ASU is always on my mind.