Austin Burnette

Playing football has probably had more of an influence on me than anything else in my life. My summers and falls were dedicated to the sport from the age of seven up until my senior year of high school, so football has been a large chunk of my life so far. I originally started playing in a recreational league simply because it looked fun, and for the first few years that was exactly what my focus was on. That mindset changed in sixth grade, when I joined the Perry Stallions. The Stallions had a reputation for being competitive and ferocious, and I learned soon enough that I would be expected to develop these traits if I was going to stay on the team. It was a tough experience, but one that I feel embedded what little resolve and scraps of a work ethic I have in me, along with penchant for hitting any and everyone helmet-first. That season was easily the best in my life (even if I spent a good portion of it on the bench with a broken arm), and we went undefeated in the regular season and won second place in the entire Southeast region for our age group.

Middle school, by comparison, was a disappointment. I had played lineman all my life, and suddenly the coaches decided I was more suited to be a cornerback. This basically ensured my solid position on the bench since my lack of skill or physical ability was not something I could just will or hit my way through.

High school was much better, as I was moved back to offensive lineman as a freshman. In sophomore year, I was moved to linebacker due to my inability to overcome the 150-200 pound weight gap between me and other linemen, and my willingness to deliver and take hits. Unfortunately, I was quite terrible at the mental part of being a linebacker, as I couldn’t think well and quickly in situations of physical stress. I did, however, build up a reputation over the years on kickoff. No quick thinking was required at all, leaving me able to just charge headfirst down the field full-speed and knock the lights out of the first unfortunate soul to cross my path. There’s a unique joy and brutal satisfaction in the slightly fearful look on your target’s face, pads-dulled impact, and the sounds of a solid CRACK and the crowd audibly wincing on a successful hit.

Of course, that stage of my life is over. I don’t have the skill or athleticism to continue into college, and I’d rather use the time to focus on my studies anyway. However, I’ll keep those memories (and bruises) for the rest of my li