The life of a walk-on isn’t exactly glamorous. You’re not on scholarship and you have to work harder than most to prove yourself. But usually, that hard work pays off, which is exactly what happened for senior nose tackle Sam Burt.
An Abilene, Kansas native, Burt was an All-State caliber player but the major college offers never really materialized. So he walked-on with the Jayhawks, knowing he’d have to fight for his place.
Burt won that fight, and is now getting to live out his dream of playing major college football.
This week on The Jayhawker Podcast we go inside Burt’s journey from over-looked, small town high school star to scholarship-carrying member of a major conference college program. It’s been quite a ride for Burt, but the selfless senior leader says he’s had plenty of help getting to where he’s at today.
One of this first challenges arriving at KU was putting on nearly 70 pounds in order to compete along the Kansas defensive line.
“Ricky (Ng), our nutritionist when I got here, he was a mad scientist of the nutrition room,” described Burt. “They told me, ‘We want you to play inside and to do that, you have to gain some weight.’ He helped me a lot and obviously, the weight staff helped me a ton.”
Burt said a special daily shake with a unique name was the secret to bulking up.
“Ricky called them ‘Beast Shakes,’” recalled Burt. “It was two Gatorade blacks, a serving of cytocarb, which is literally just carbs. It was the protein you put in, which is still all carbed-up. It was a couple of scoops of peanut butter, heavy whipping cream, chocolate syrup. I think it was 1400-1700 calories per shake. It was dense!”
With his body rounding into form, next came the extra tutelage from veteran stars on the KU defense – two of which would go on to the NFL.
“Freshman year, the guys at that time – it was Dorance Armstrong, Daniel Wise and Josh Ehambe – they really took me under their wing,” a grateful Burt described. “They just took me and worked with me and helped me out. Especially ‘D-Wise,’ training sessions with him were very intense and helped me to understand (how to) push myself to a further level.”
Wise, a former Dallas Cowboy, saw promise in Burt early on.
“Sam was a pleasure to work with because he wants to learn,” recalled Wise. “It’s easy to get a guy under your wing when he wants to learn and wants to be there. Every Saturday when we did extra work he was always one of the first ones there and one of the last to leave.”
The extra sessions with the KU veterans paid off for a young Burt who wound up appearing in all 24 games his first two seasons on special teams and saw action in 5 games on the defensive line as a sophomore. Then after a coaching change to Les Miles and the arrival of defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, Burt’s career really took.
“We entered fall camp and it went really well,” Burt remembered. “It was a really good fall camp of just learning and progressing on how to play the game better. Coach Drake was phenomenal with just how much easier playing football is when you have proper techniques and a proper mindset about football. It was a whole paradigm shift for me and I really grew.”
That growth, as well as Burt’s work ethic and the admiration it drew from his teammates caught Coach Miles’ eye. In the preseason of 2019, Miles made the walk-on from Abilene a scholarship-carrying Jayhawk.
“It was a very emotional day. It was amazing,” said Burt. “Obviously, I can never repay Coach Miles and the staff (fully) for taking a chance on me and giving me that scholarship because that’s something I’ll remember forever. I’ll only be able to repay them by my playing here.”
Hear Burt describe the day that changed his football career forever and learn how he’s currently taking all the help he’s received and paying it forward on this week’s edition of “The Jayhawker Podcast.”