Cross staying hungry

Imani Cross

Imani Cross stays late almost every practice, in hopes that when his name is called, he's always ready.

LINCOLN, Neb. - Whoever is responsible for shutting off the lights at the Hawks Championship Center, Nebraska's indoor practice facility, has a tough job.

Why you might ask?

Because the person always has to stay late – Imani Cross has to get better.

The true freshman running back, from Gainesville, GA, made an appearance in 13 games this season, yet doesn't have the attitude he's arrived. It's actually the exact opposite. It's why he stays after practice each and every day, working sometimes for 30 to 40 minutes extra either by himself or anyone willing to join him.

"I believe it's important because I don't believe I'm at where I need to be at," Cross said. "I feel there are a lot of things I need to work on and continue to get better at. Having better footwork, having my hips low, keeping a good base. Hand eye coordination catching the football, making sure my nose is over my toes when I'm running routes. Just working on the fundamentals because I want to be an all-around football player."

Cross was throw into the fire early, registering 11 carries against Southern Miss in the first game of the season. He found the end zone seven times throughout the season, becoming the Huskers short down back midway through the year.

"I do feel like I'm better than I was a couple weeks ago, but I don't feel like I'm as good as I could be," said Cross. "In two more weeks you can ask me that same question and I'm still not going to say I'm as good as I think I could be. It's something I'm going to continue to work on everyday."

Cross' 55 carries was fourth on the team behind Rex Burkhead, Ameer Abdullah, and quarterback Taylor Martinez. Throw in Braylon Heard's 51 carries and the Huskers' running game was crowded in 2012. Despite the trio of older players in front of him, Cross has no regrets about redshirting this year.

"I think it was a blessing for the time I did get, so I looked at that more than the time I didn't get," Cross said. "I'm thankful for the time I did get and the experience I did gain and I'm going to use it to build off. I'm happy for what I did get.

"It's a blessing to be able to play, especially as a freshman, I'm thankful for the opportunity. Whatever I didn't get, that's what I work for in the offseason."

Despite growing up in Georgia, Cross says he's not a Bulldogs fan. But is excited to face one of the top teams in the nation, not playing in a BCS.

"I think it's a great challenge for our football team. That is what Coach Pelini has told us. That's what we believe," said Cross. "We look at it just like every other game. We are going to prepare and do the little things, just to make sure we are ready fundamentally."

Josh Harvey has covered college football and recruiting for Fox Sports & Scout.com since 2008. He is now the Publisher of Big Red Report, covering Nebraska athletics.
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