Burkett signs with Missouri

For many high school football players, the final decision made on National Signing Day can be a gut-wrenching call.

Answering constant phone calls, sifting through hundreds of letters and sitting through visits with coaches can make the college decision a difficult one.

Jefferson City linebacker Joe Burkett never really had a decision to make. He knew all along where he wanted to be.

Burkett made his college choice official Wednesday morning, signing a national letter of intent to play football at Missouri.

“After Mizzou offered me, it was about 45 minutes before I went and told them it would work,” Burkett said.

Burkett, who made a verbal commitment last February, said he has dreamed of playing football at Missouri since he was a young child attending games with his family. Burkett remembers something in particular he told his dad at one of those games.

“I knew watching from the stands when I was probably 5 or 6, and just telling my dad that it would be one of my dreams to play for Mizzou,” Burkett said. “And to make that happen it’s awesome.”

Burkett was early to the party wanting to come to Missouri, and Missouri was there waiting for him.

Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel recalled seeing Burkett as a freshman at Missouri’s Kansas City camp. He saw a young kid who stood out above the rest of the players at the camp.

“I distinctively remember when he was a freshman, he was out at Kansas City camp we were talking about another player and evaluating him, I kept saying, ‘I like that guy, I like that guy,’” Steckel said. “And finally (associate head coach Andy Hill) yelled at me and he said ‘Stop, he’s a freshman.’ We just kind of tracked him from his freshman year on because of his athleticism.”

It didn’t hurt Burkett’s case either he has been able to show off his athleticism off the football field. Burkett is a two-time state pole vaulting champion.

“Pole vaulting at 200 pounds, when you’re vaulting upwards of 15, 16 feet, it’s really impressive as an explosive athlete,” Hill said.

Add speed to his athleticism, and Division I football seemed to be a natural fit.

“His ability to move side to side (was important),” Jefferson City head coach Ted LePage said. “A lot of people talk about linear speed which is straight ahead speed and how fast people are in the 40. Joey was always able to stop, change directions, and go full speed on that first step.

“As he grew, you could really notice it on the field. That’s what separates a lot of good players from being great players, is that ability to change directions.”

Burkett, who was all-state last season despite playing in just eight games because of an ankle injury, said he drew interest from other schools. But Missouri was his only offer and he never considered going anywhere else.

“I do think if he’d have been on the open market the last couple of years, he’d of had a lot more offers and a lot more play,” Hill said.

At 210 pounds, Burkett would be considered small for a linebacker in college. But he’s ready for the challenges that await him when he arrives on campus in the summer.

“I know it’s going to be a heck of a lot faster than high school football, that’s one thing that I know when I’ve talked to players and they’ve said it’s a lot faster than high school and you’ve got to get used to that,” Burkett said. “And everybody is twice the size of everybody who was in high school, so playing in the SEC it almost triples."

Six other Jays signed letters of intent Wednesday including quarterback Thomas LePage (Pittsburg State), offensive linemen John Carter (Missouri Western) and Steven Williams (Washburn), cornerback Noah Livingston (Evangel) and offensive/defensive lineman Sylvester King (Avala), and Zainu Mansuray (Culver-Stockton).

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