Mature Burnett expecting freaky senior season
Ever since he was a skinny little freshman, Taylor Burnett has been making his presence felt on a football field.
Now a senior, Burnett could use his presence to dictate what opposing offenses will try to do.
"We know that wherever he is on the field, defensively, opposing coaches are going to stop and take notice," De Soto football coach Brad Scott said. "They're going to probably take a look and say, 'We can't go that way.' I think we will be able to shut down one side of the football field because we know they can't go his way, and we know they know they can't go his way."
That kind of confidence may not have been in the back of the minds of the Wildcats coaching staff when Burnett walked onto the field as a first-year player in 2002. But day-by-day and play-after-play the 6-foot-3-inch, 175-pound rookie started turning heads.
His performance on the field during his early days prompted former Wildcats assistant coach Mike Wiley to dub Burnett "The Freak."
"He was a skinny little kid," Wiley said. "To be able to go out and do what he did -- well, that was pretty freaky. He was elusive and quick off of the end. He was always there making plays for us."
As he grew into his 6-5 225-pound frame, Burnett's ability to make big plays was no longer strange. But the way he has continued to play the game reminded his peers and coaches of the way Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse, also known as the Freak, plays the game.
"He's crazy," Burnett said of Kearse. "And he's big and fast. I guess I'm pretty big and fast."
Burnett's numbers also back his comparison to Kearse. After seeing a lot of playing time during his freshman year, Burnett has started the last two seasons.
During his junior season, Burnett was credited for 22 unassisted and 50 total tackles. Eight of those stops occurred behind the line of scrimmage. And four of those were quarterback sacks. Burnett also broke up five passes, intercepted a pass and forced two fumbles. He also recovered two fumbles.
Burnett's responsibilities on defense are simple. When the tackle leaves his spot on the field, fill that spot and make the tackle. Or, if the play goes outside, he is to get outside and turn the play back in or make the play.
On offense, Burnett will move from the offensive line back to the offensive line where Scott hopes he can create some mismatches.
"He's such a big target to throw to," Scott said. "He's an obvious mismatch for anybody we go up against. We want to get him out there and isolate him."
Burnett prefers defense to offense because he's never really ever been into contact, unless, of course, he's the one doing the hitting. His tackling style is somewhat unorthodox. Although he gets a good shot in once in a while, Burnett prefers to grab the opposing offensive player, spin him and then throw him down.
The returning All-Frontier League defensive end foresees success in the win-loss record this season. But, he said some of the underclassmen will have to step up and make some plays.
"A key to our success is the play of our underclassmen," Burnett said. "We only have six or seven seniors on the team this year. We (seniors) will be able to maintain the leadership we need, but sometimes other guys have to take over and make the game theirs. They have to be ready to have their time."
Burnett, who is returning from a collarbone injury suffered during 7-on-7 football this summer, said that while he enjoyed playing the game, he really likes the fanfare.
"It's great," he said. "I love going out there on Friday nights and being part of something so special. I love being part of a team."
Burnett wants to win every game. But if he has to choose a team he really enjoys beating, it would have to be Eudora. The Wildcats knocked off their rival last year, and Burnett hoped there is more where that came from.
"While we should always raise our game to the next level we really like beating Eudora," Burnett said. "Everybody gets fired up for that game. We are ready to play our best."
Burnett said he has had recruiting contacts from the Army and Southwest Missouri State, but said he would go anywhere else if offered a scholarship. His dream is to play for Kansas or reunite with former Wildcats David Hall and Josh Oberhelman at Ottawa University.