Husker notes: Former Husker Richie Incognito wants to keep playing two weeks after gym outburst

Husker notes: Former Husker Richie Incognito wants to keep playing two weeks after gym outburst
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn, left, saw his Razorbacks go 0-2 in their last CWS appearance. (World-Herald News Service)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Richie Incognito tells The Associated Press he’s back home training in Arizona and feeling great, two weeks after the former Buffalo Bills offensive lineman spent three days in a mental hospital following an alleged outburst at a south Florida gym.

Without discussing the outburst, Incognito wrote in a text to The AP on Wednesday that he is still pursuing continuing his NFL career for a 12th season. He focused a majority of his message thanking friends and fans for their support, and specifically singled out former teammate, center Eric Wood.

Incognito referred to Wood as a pillar of the community and added: “When I would have a dark day, he was a bright shining light that helped me through. I owe him a lot.”

Incognito also thanked the Bills and team owners Terry and Kim Pegula for providing him an opportunity to resurrect his career. The Bills signed Incognito in January 2015 after he spent 18 months out of football following his role in the Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal.

He referred to his three seasons in Buffalo as being some of his fondest memories.

Incognito then closed his message by saying he hopes to sign with another team so that he can come back to Buffalo to beat the Bills, before adding a smiling face emoji wearing sunglasses.

The 34-year-old Incognito has had a tumultuous offseason.

Two weeks ago, police placed Incognito in a mental hospital after he allegedly threw weights and tennis balls at gym employees and another patron, and told officers the government is spying on him.

In April, Incognito abruptly fired his agent and then retired by posting a note on Twitter before having a change of heart. The Bills granted his request to be released to potentially sign with another team on May 21.

By packing more power, former Husker coach Dave Van Horn likes his Razorbacks’ CWS chances

The last time coach Dave Van Horn led his Arkansas team to Omaha, he watched the Razorbacks struggle to scratch across runs in two close defeats.

The Razorbacks scored three times in each game back in 2015, but even that kind of limited production seemed like a chore.

They finished their College World Series opener by putting just two runners on base over the final four innings of a 5-3 loss. They managed two hits in the first five innings of a season-ending 4-3 defeat.

Arkansas’ experience in a CWS appearance three years before thatwasn’t much better. Arkansas went 2-2 in Omaha, scoring 12 total runs and batting .219 as a team.

The conclusion was a simple one.

“We looked at our last couple (CWS trips), and that kind of got us thinking: ‘We’ve got to find a way to get some more hitters in here,’” Van Horn said in a phone interview this week. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.”

They started targeting a higher percentage of their available scholarship dollars to position players, Van Horn said. He said one of the trends they’ve noticed, too, is that the top-tier high school hitters have been less likely than their pitching counterparts to get drafted early and sign pro deals. So they’ve found some good talent.

The results reflect that.

Arkansas led the SEC in home runs for the first time ever last year. This season’s squad is one behind Florida for the league lead — the Razorbacks’ 90 home runs rank fourth nationally. They’re tied for first among conference teams in batting average at .300.

The players deserve credit, too, Van Horn said. There’s been year-to-year improvement by veterans like senior Carson Shaddy (.331 average, 11 home runs) and junior Eric Cole (.328, 13 HR). Freshmen Heston Kjerstad (.344, 13 HR) and Casey Martin (.336, 13 HR) didn’t back down from the challenges associated with transitioning to Division I ball, either.

“It’s been a pretty good mix for us,” Van Horn said.

But the Razorbacks aren’t done. They’re still two wins from Omaha.

They’ll host a South Carolina team that won 12 of its final 17 regular-season games before stomping through East Carolina’s regional last weekend. The Gamecocks finished second behind Florida in the SEC East Division.

“They’re awfully good and they’ve been playing great baseball down the stretch,” Van Horn said.

Arkansas did take two of three in a home series against South Carolina in April and beat it in the SEC tournament, too.

The last two super regionals that Arkansas hosted came in 2012 and 2015. It won both.

And that’s the goal. The Razorbacks were seeded No. 5 overall — they’ve never been higher — for good reason. They were 11-6 against the 15 other teams remaining in the NCAA tournament field.

Van Horn, the former Nebraska coach who is in his 16th year with Arkansas, is looking to make his seventh career CWS appearance. He and Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan could move into a tie for second among active coaches if they both made it to Omaha next week.

Van Horn’s teams haven’t won a title, though. They’ve not even reached the CWS finals.

One could argue that the Razorbacks haven’t had a team better suited to make a run in Omaha. The players certainly carry themselves with that in mind.

“It’s just the way this team plays,” Kjerstad said after the Razorbacks clinched a regional title. “The higher level team we play, the team understands how important those games are and everyone seems to step up when they need to step up to win big games.”

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