The top-ranked junior from the Commonwealth of Kentucky has received scholarship offers from just about every school in the country, most recently Oklahoma. It has its positives, as well as its drawbacks.
Jager Burton received his first scholarship offer last fall from the University of Kentucky. The Frederick Douglass lineman is now ranked by Rivals as the No. 6 offensive guard in America and the No. 132 player overall. His recruitment picked up steam over the summer when offers rolled in from all over the country.
“I guess it was kind of surprising. I worked hard enough to earn that stuff, but it’s so early it feels like,” Burton told KSR. “I guess it feels like I’m older than I am because everything happened so fast. But it’s crazy knowing that I can pick pretty much anywhere that I wanna go to school at and reach out to schools that are the biggest schools in college football on a daily basis.”
Over the summer, Burton had to initiate communication with college coaches. Beginning in September college coaches could start contacting him directly. Now he cannot answer texts from coaches fast enough.
“It’s really exhausting. It’s like almost having however many schools text me, it’s like having that many girlfriends. Sometimes the texts are about football. Sometimes they’ll just be like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ It’s weird. It’s a lot for sure. I have a ton of unread messages,” Burton said.
Like juggling prospective dates, Burton must toe a fine line with college coaches. Some schools only have one coach contacting him regularly, but the school up north does things differently.
“Most schools only one coach will text me consistently, but Ohio State, a good majority of their staff texts me like everyday just asking, ‘What’s up?'”
Aside from Ohio State, Kentucky is the only other school where Burton speaks to multiple coaches, talking frequently to Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow and John Schlarman, the coach who first suggested that Burton try out offensive line.
The Lexington native grew up cheering for Oregon and attending UK games at Commonwealth Stadium. Saturday’s game against Florida was unlike any other Kentucky home football game.
“It was definitely different. The Lexington vibe was different. Whenever I woke up and it was game day and I went out — I went over there early. That was weird too, getting to hang out with my friends before the recruiting thing. I tailgated with some friends and hung out. It was one of the first items I’ve been to a Kentucky game where it felt like an Ohio State game or something like that atmosphere wise, like a big-time school game. It had a big-time school vibe football-wise, which I think now is going to be a regular thing for Kentucky because of how much they’re winning and how the program’s heading, which is really cool because it’s where I live. It’s cool to see the change over time.”
Seeing the support from the BBN was important. Playing in front of a packed house is what Burton wants to do at the next level.
“It’s really important to me. I think everyone who wants to play college football always dreamed about playing in front of tons of people week in and week out, and having a really supportive fan base who’s with you through winning seasons, losing seasons; no matter what they’re always there to support you. That’s important to me for sure.”
Fan support is just one of the many things that are factoring into Burton’s decision.
“Obviously, there are big things like, do I like the coaching staff, the facilities, all that stuff. The depth chart is important. Having an opportunity to play in the first two years is definitely a thing I’m really interested in. I like to talk to players about how they like the school because they don’t have a reason to lie. Coaches have a reason to lie because it’s their job is to get me there. Players a lot of the time won’t lie to you about stuff like that. They’ll just tell you straight up if they like it or not, how they like the coaches and how they like the schedule and everything like that.”
Reaching out to players at the school is something he’s learned through the recruiting process by watching his friend, Walker Parks, go through the same situation a year ago. The Frederick Douglass offensive tackle will play at Clemson next fall.
“It’s cool be cause he gave me the insight before I really got into it, the things I need to look for and when he knew it was decision time for him. It’s been cool. I haven’t made some of the mistakes he said he made through it all, which has helped a lot, especially at the speed things are going. I’m thankful for that. It’s pretty cool knowing that we could have the chance to play together in college. It’s awesome for me.”
Burton attended a camp at Clemson over the summer with Parks, where he received a scholarship offer. He visited Death Valley for the Tigers’ win over Texas A&M earlier this season. During the trip, he took a wild ride down the slide at Clemson’s football facility.
“It’s actually so fast, I almost fell,” he laughed.
Clemson and Ohio State are just two of the dozens of schools Burton is juggling along with Kentucky. There’s no timetable for a decision in the immediate future. Right now, he’s focused on receiving some vengeance against Scott County next Friday, the team that ended Douglass’ season last year.
“That’s the game everyone’s had highlighted on their schedule since what happened last year in the playoffs. We’ve been waiting for our revenge and it’s almost that time. We’re really excited.”