University of Washington

The hair is ‘magical’ and so is the Huskies’ depth and experience at linebacker

UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven on his long hair: "I will probably let it go the whole season."

Ben Burr-Kirven has played in 26 games in his first two seasons, but enters his junior year still backing up a pair of fifth-year seniors in Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria
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Ben Burr-Kirven has played in 26 games in his first two seasons, but enters his junior year still backing up a pair of fifth-year seniors in Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria

Ben Burr-Kirven isn’t bitter.

He’s played enough in his first two seasons at inside linebacker that most University of Washington football fans know who he is.

Plus, he arguably has the best head of hair on the team.

But even though he’s played in 26 games, and registered 78 tackles in a variety of roles on defense and special teams, he still does not have an open path to a starting spot heading into his junior year.

That is because the two starters ahead of him — Azeem Victor and Keishawn Bierria — are fifth-year seniors.

“Obviously everyone wants to start — that is why you come and play college football,” Burr-Kirven said. “At the same time, those guys have earned it. They’ve been here and done the work. We are thankful they both came back. Our defense is unquestionably better with them. So I don’t think you can look at that as a negative. They will help us win games.”

Although he was a bit undersized coming out of Sacred Heart Prep in Menlo Park, California, Burr-Kirven is still regarded as one of the best players to come out of that area ever.

As a running back and linebacker, he was the San Jose Mercury News’ two-time player of the year in 2013 and 2014.

When he arrived at the UW, he was immediately thrust into playing time. He saw action in 12 games before missing the Heart of Dallas Bowl with an injury, and was awarded the team’s most outstanding special teams player.

Last season, he saw an uptick in playing time, especially after Victor suffered a season-ending leg injury against USC in November.

Now entering his third season, Burr-Kirven sees a linebacker room that has more experience than ever. Along with Victor and Bierria, Sean Constantine is also a holdover from the Steve Sarkisian era.

Both second-string inside linebackers, Burr-Kirven and DJ Beavers, are in their third seasons. And right behind them are Camilo Eifler and Brandon Wellington, who are in their second years.

“It’s pretty crazy just to go around the room, and everyone knows the defense already,” Burr-Kirven said. “That is going to be a big advantage that we’re going to have this year — we don’t really have a lot of teaching to do now. It’s all about refining things.”

And in the case of his long-flowing. blond hair, it is about shampooing and conditioning.

“I started growing it out before camp my freshman year,” Burr-Kirven said. “I’ve cut it a few times ... or trimmed it. I will probably just let it go the whole season.”

Burr-Kirven hears about it constantly from UW teammates.

“It’s magical,” Constantine said.

As long as it doesn’t get in the way of making tackles on defense and punt-coverage team.

“He is an energetic guy,” Constantine said.

EXTRA POINTS

The Huskies wrapped up their final open-to-the-media fall camp practice Saturday in the Dempsey Center — out of pads. They will practice Sunday, then take Monday off.

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