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Recruiting: Derek Burton
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D-End prospect talks about OU and future
An innocent trip to the mailbox last summer turned out to be a potentially life-altering event for Derek Burton. No, the envelope he retrieved didnāt involve a million dollar sweepstakes notification, although it might have been difficult to convince him he hadnāt won the lottery by the time he finished reading the letter it did contain.
The letter was from The University of Oklahoma and it basically let Burton know the Sooners wanted to gain his future services. If the 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end from Muskogee High School so desired, OU was prepared to offer a full scholarship to play football in Norman.
It was the first time Burton had received such a letter from a major college, and he was understandably pumped. He had to tell someone about it, and fast.
āI read it and kind of stood there for a second and went and woke up my dad,ā recalled Burton. āHe was fast asleep and I woke him up and he said, āGood job boy,ā and then he rolled over and went back to sleep.
āHeās real humble, so I didnāt expect too much from him.ā
Burtonās father may have viewed the letter from Oklahoma with less excitement because heād been there before. Derek Burton Sr. was a three-year letterman on the offensive line at Oklahoma State from 1983-85. But it wasnāt disdain for the University of Oklahoma that led to his reaction.
In fact, shortly after his father regained his bearings, he had a long talk with his son about what it all meant.
āAfter I got that letter from OU, (Dad) told me he was going to let me make up my mind,ā said young Burton. āHe said he wasnāt going to try and influence me. He knew it was going to be my first big decision. He said, āYou donāt need me messing it up for you.āā
To say the ties Derek Burton Sr. shares with Oklahoma State wonāt be a factor in his sonās decision would be misleading. Itās clear the Cowboys have a die-hard supporter at the head of the Burton household. And itās clear that allegiance has rubbed off on his son over the years, to some degree.
āI still have little OSU jerseys laying around here,ā said Burton. āMy sister wears them now. I donāt know if it counts for OU, but I have a white sweatshirt with Oklahoma in red on it. I donāt know if that counts. Iāve never seen my dad wear it though.ā
Burton would like to restrict his decision to Oklahoma schools, if possible. But a player ranked as the No. 5 defensive end in the country by ESPN.com has options. Tennessee, Texas Tech and Kansas State are all schools Burton is considering, along with the Sooners and Cowboys.
And Burton feels he canāt ignore what some of those other schools have to offer.
āIāve never even thought about anything like Tennessee,ā said Burton. āTo get that offer, it just kind of broadens your horizons. I think (recruiting services) are kind of assuming (Iāll stay in state). Iām saying the teams in state have an upper hand. What that means is that more than likely Iāll be in state.ā
āI donāt necessarily believe (staying in state is a sure thing). As much as my parents want me to stay in the state, Iāll still go check out Tennessee and I might check out Texas Tech and Kansas State.ā
Burton isnāt your prototypical defensive mauler. Heās a mix of athlete and philosopher. Heās as much at home talking about the psychology of offense and defense as he is talking about the schemes of offense and defense.
āI like playing defense a whole lot more than I like playing offense,ā said Burton. āOn defense, you just have to know what to do and go play. On offense, you have to know what to do, you have to make calls, but you have to make sure the person next to you is aware of what youāre saying to them and stuff like that.
āI guess you can say itās more of a team effort when youāre on offense, but on defense you can work within that team and still be an individual.ā
Itās that type of thinking that makes Burton a unique recruiting target. Coaches canāt give him the hard sell. He appears to be too sharp to fall for the standard sales pitch used by most college recruiters.
āI like coaches that are mellow,ā said Burton when talking about what impresses him about college recruiters. āI like coaches who are going to tell me the truth and not rant and rave about how good I am and how Iām going to come in and start right away or anything like that. I know thatās more than likely not going to just happen. I know Iām going to have to earn a spot.ā
Burton also cites one coach who has met and exceeded those criteria early in the recruiting process.
āThe defensive coach from Oklahoma ā Jackie Shipp ā heās a great guy. Half the time, heās not even talking about football and thatās cool,ā said Burton.
Burtonās father has also become more and more comfortable with Shipp as he has gone through the recruiting process with his son. But that wasnāt always the case. Thatās because Shipp and Burton Sr. have a history. Theyāve battled against each other on the field. Burton Sr. always had his hands full trying to keep Shipp off his quarterbacks and running backs each fall when the two were playing for their respective alma maters at OU and OSU.
āHe knew Coach Shipp,ā said Burton Jr., recalling the surprising meeting between his father and Shipp when they traveled to Norman last spring for OUās Red-White Game. āThey played against each other. He had the best time of his life up at OU. That was kind of weird. He just went up there and was talking and met some old people that he used to play against. It was just a bunch of old people sitting around talking.ā
OK, not the most flattering way for his father and Shipp to be mentioned, but a memorable reunion nonetheless.
Apparently that type of talk is just fine between the Burtons and Shipp. Burton Jr. said thatās just the way things go in a relationship built out of Bedlam embers.
As for the recruiting battles which lie ahead, Burton will take his time making a decision. But he knows the Sooners and Cowboys will both be major players until the end.
As for Burtonās heartstrings, he canāt ignore the pull Oklahoma State will hold on his emotions. Sons often do what they can to make their fatherās faces light up with pride.
āI know it would make him proud if I went to Oklahoma State. Just to be where he played and everything, but he hasnāt said anything to me like, āYou really need to consider going to Oklahoma State,āā said Burton Jr.
In fact, Burton Sr. has done everything he can to help his son make the most informed decision possible. Even if that decision isnāt following in his footsteps.
āHeās letting me do my own things,ā said Burton Jr. āHeās taking me to games because without him I wouldnāt be able to go anywhere. Heās not telling me I need to go to OSU.ā
Until Burton starts scheduling official visits following the completion of his senior season, he does have an idea or two about continuing to build the suspense.
āI have a shirt from Oklahoma State and I used to wear it under my pads and everyone was like, āYeah, heās going to Oklahoma State.ā So I tried to find something else to wear,ā said Burton.
When told he should start alternating OSU and OU jerseys under his uniform during games to keep people guessing, Burton responded, āYeah. Thatās what I should do.ā
Burton does enjoy the speculation that surrounds his recruitment and eventual college selection. And he tries to have as much fun with it as he can.
āI just tell people Iām going to Bacone, that little college over there that plays on our field,ā Burton said. āI tell them Iām going to Bacone and some of them laugh, but some people think Iām serious.ā
Until Burton makes the final decision, itās anyoneās guess where heāll end up. Will Shippās dynamic personality win the day for Oklahoma?
Could Burtonās father, the former Oklahoma State offensive lineman, step up and see that the orange and black bloodline continues?
Or could another national power make a lasting impression to trump all others.
āThatās not fair to say that Iām just going to give (OU and OSU) the only shot because theyāre in state. If I went to Tennessee for a visit and that felt the best about them, then thatās where Iām going to go.ā
As Februaryās national signing day inches closer, Derek Burtonās decision is certain to be one recruiting drama worth following to the very end.
(Editor's Note: Sooner Spectator features an indepth story on a prep player OU is recruiting in every issue.)