Sports can unite. Myles Burkett experienced it firsthand.
Most of the Franklin senior quarterback’s high school career took place during a pandemic, a time marked by not only personal isolation caused by school closings and distance learning but also great division.
But for 14 Fridays this past summer and fall, the Sabers football team was something the community could rally behind.
“This pandemic has been a struggle for all of us, but for our team to be that source of light and create a buzz around our city, I think that all of us will be true legends,” Burkett wrote in a text message to the Journal Sentinel.
“We said at the beginning of the year, what legacy would we leave at our school and this state, and I watched this team come out every day and stamp our legacy into the history books.”
Burkett added another layer to his legacy Thursday when he was announced as The Associated Press state high school football player of the year. The honor, which was awarded to the University of Wisconsin recruit by panel of prep sports writers from around the state, came on the heels of the offensive player of the year award he received from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association last month and, of course, an undefeated season capped by the school’s first state championship since 2006.
Burkett was a near unanimous pick from a pool of nominees that also included Whitefish Bay lineman Joe Brunner, Sun Prairie defensive end Isaac Hamm, Durand running back Simon Bauer and Colby running back/linebacker Brent Jeske.
“He’s very talented, but if we were to have a most improved player, he’d be one of the kids I’d mention, believe it or not, just because he’s improved tremendously as a leader,” Franklin coach Louis Brown said.
“When he made the commitment to Wisconsin that told me a lot about him because a lot of kids might get that offer and then wait and see what else I get. The fact that he committed right away said a lot about the type of kid he is. He just kind of embraced this whole program.”
One of the best seasons ever
Burkett, 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, earned the award with one of the best seasons for a signal caller in state history. He completed 206 of 289 passes for 3,427 yards, 36 touchdowns and four interceptions.
That single-season yardage total is tied for the eighth-best in state history, according to records kept by the WFCA. The touchdowns rank 19th best for a season. There are no single-season records kept for completion percentage, but Burkett’s 71.3% completion rate was higher than any of the quarterbacks who rank ahead of him on the single-season yardage list.
And Burkett is the only one of the bunch who can boast of winning a state championship during his prolific season.
In the state final he completed 16 of 23 passes for a Division 1 title game record 276 yards in a 38-17 victory over Sun Prairie at Camp Randall Stadium on Nov. 16.
He has watched a replay of the game a few times.
“Looking back, you can see how much fun we were having,” he wrote. “Us seniors playing in our last game together, the second and third looks (of the game) can show Franklin football just going out and putting on a show.”
The Sabers needed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Burkett to hold off Sun Prairie after the Cardinals scored 14 straight points to cut the lead to seven heading into the fourth quarter.
That final quarter was the final dramatic twist in a season when Franklin needed to come from behind in the fourth quarter three times. There was a Hail Mary game in Week 1 when the team rallied from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Appleton North, as well as a second-round playoff win over Oak Creek and a rally in the state semifinals to stun North again.
Cool under pressure
Burkett’s poise under pressure became one of his greatest intangibles, something he even had in his first start. In the 2019 season opener, the sophomore threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns against Fond du Lac before gathering himself and almost rallying the team from a 17-point second-half deficit.
“I think that game instilled in me that never-quit mentality from the very start,” he wrote. “I’ve had my fair share of comebacks in my career, but looking back to my first start, I’d say that it remains the most pivotal in my career.”
Burkett will take that mentality with him to Madison in January. He plans to graduate early, enroll at UW for the second semester and begin to take the challenge of being a college quarterback.
He’s ready to get to work.
“At the quarterback position, any advisor you have over the course of your career will advise you to do so,” Burkett wrote about his decision to enroll in college early. “There’s much more technical concepts that you have to pick up to be able to have success at the next level, so having a whole eight and a half months before the first game gives me a better opportunity when it comes to competing for time as a freshman.”
The AP all-state football team
Player of the year: Myles Burkett, 6-2, 205, sr., QB, Franklin.
Coach of the year: Tom Lee, La Crosse Aquinas.
x - unanimous selection
Offense first team
QB – Myles Burkett, 6-2, 205, sr., Franklin.
RB – x-Simon Bauer, 5-8, 175, sr., Durand; Alijah Maher-Parr, 5-9, 165, sr., Arrowhead; Blake Schraufnagel, 6-1, 180, jr., Mayville.
OL – Joe Brunner, 6-8, 315, sr., Whitefish Bay; Carson Hinzman, 6-4, 275, sr., St. Croix Central; Evan Malcore, 6-6, 270, sr., Sun Prairie; Joey Okla, 6-3, 295, sr., Arrowhead; x-Billy Schrauth, 6-6, 295, sr., St. Mary’s Springs Academy.
WR/TE – Andrew Keller, 6-6, 215, sr., Waunakee; Jackson Trudgeon, 6-1, 185, sr., Madison Edgewood.
PK – Gavin Lahm, 6-2, 210, sr., Kaukauna.
ALL-PURPOSE – Robby Michael, 5-10, 160, sr., Kohler/ Sheboygan Lutheran/ Christian; Zander Rockow, 6-1, 220, jr., Eau Claire Regis.
Offense second team
QB – Jackson Flottmeyer, 6-6, 216, jr., La Crosse Aquinas.
RB – Cole Berghorn, 6-1, 210, ar., Lake Geneva Badger; Brycen Cashin, 6-0, 180, sr., Stevens Point Pacelli; Max Grand, 5-9, 190, sr., Ellsworth.
OL – Ashton Beers, 6-6, 300, sr., Slinger; Evan Oberg, 6-4, 250, sr., DeForest; Alex Pethan, 6-2, 295, sr., Oak Creek; Will Schroeder, 6-1, 260, sr., Appleton North; Chad Schuster, 6-6, 285, sr., Franklin.
WR/TE – Keaton Arendt, 6-1, 190, sr., Franklin; Sam Peiffer, 6-2, 185, sr., Cedar Grove-Belgium.
PK – Michael Karlen, 5-7, 165, sr., Stanley-Boyd.
ALL-PURPOSE – Reed Breckheimer, 6-0, 221, sr., Hilbert; Calvin Hargrove, 5-6, 160, jr., La Crosse Aquinas.
Defense first team
DL – Gabe Alyousef, 6-2, 275, sr., Oak Creek; Joe Brunner, 6-8, 315, sr., Whitefish Bay; Wes King, 6-5, 280, sr., Appleton North.
DE/OLB – x-Isaac Hamm, 6-5, 240, sr., Sun Prairie; J.T. Seagreaves, 6-6, 234, sr., Monroe.
ILB – Jack Baretz, 6-3, 218, sr., Franklin; x-William Campbell, 6-2, 235, sr., Kaukauna; Luna Larson, 6-2, 200, sr., Baraboo.
DB – x-Alex Belongia, 6-3, 190, sr., Rice Lake; Logan Engeseth, 6-2, 190, sr., DeForest; Daniel Martens, 5-11, 185, sr., Franklin.
PUNTER – x-Tyler Ebel, 6-5, 230, sr., DeForest.
Defense second team
DL – Eddie Loesch, 6-1, 230, sr., River Falls; Kian Preimesberger, 6-1, 235, sr., Mount Horeb/Barneveld; Mila Stephens, 6-0, 380, sr., Catholic Memorial.
DE/OLB – Addison Ostrenga, 6-5, 225, sr., Sun Prairie; Andrew Jeske, 6-2, 200, sr., Colby.
ILB – Langston Lathan, 6-2, 235, sr., Catholic Memorial; Max Sheridan, 6-2, 190, sr., Pewaukee; Owen Vogelsberg, 6-1, 210, sr., Potosi-Cassville.
DB – Hayden Konkol, 6-4, 180, sr., Denmark; Tyler Dahlhauser, 5-9, 175, sr., Monona Grove; Cole Toennies, 6-2, 180, sr., Middleton.
PUNTER – Jack Casey, 6-0, 180, Sr., Somerset.
High honorable mention
(Received at least two votes)
Gage Boegli, RB, sr., Brodhead/Juda; Colton Brunell, RB, soph., Columbus; Colton Buttke, OL, sr., Brodhead/Juda; Aidan Driscoll, PK/P, sr., Waunakee; Brennen Dvorachek, QB/DB, sr., Reedsville; Cayden Ellis, DL, sr., Waunakee; Colin Girdaukas, WR, sr., Kohler/Sheboygan Lutheran/Christian; Mason Goettl, OL, sr., Chippewa Falls; Luke Haertle, QB, sr., Lake Country Lutheran; Sam Haeuser, ILB, sr., Racine St. Catherine’s; Kaden Hooker, DE/OLB, sr., Waunakee.
Charlie Jarvis, DB, sr., Catholic Memorial; Brent Jeske, RB/LB, sr., Colby; Nick Jorndt, ILB, sr., Whitefish Bay; Jerry Kaminski, QB, jr., Sun Prairie; Beau Kopp, QB/DE/P, sr.., Cuba City; Cortez LeGrant, RB, jr., Sun Prairie; Logan Matthews, DB, sr., Franklin; Chase Matthias, RB/ILB, soph., Two Rivers; Quinn Miskowski, WR, sr., La Crosse Aquinas; Reese Osgood, WR, sr., Franklin; Martell Owens, DL, sr., La Crosse Logan; Thomas Raemisch, ILB, jr., Waunakee; Ben Rehl, DE/OLB, sr., Mukwonago; Kenny Satori, ILB, sr., Denmark; Jake Young, OL, sr., Mukwonago.
(Five selections from each panelist)
Jack Alexander, OL, sr., Middleton; Mason Armstrong, ILB, jr., Verona; Ben Benes, OL, sr., Maple Northwestern; Boston Brindley, DB, jr., La Crosse Central; Michael Bunyan, TE/DE, sr., Port Washington; Cody Cotton, RB, sr., Union Grove; Tony Cummings, ILB, sr., Hurley; Cole Ebert, FB/DL, sr., Reedsville.
Riley Fischer, LB jr., Mukwonago; Bryce Frank, DB, sr., Marshall; Trevor Garske, QB, sr., Mosinee; Matt Getgen, RB, sr., Wisconsin Dells; Zach Gloudeman, OLB, sr., River Valley; Elijah Gray, RB, sr., Middleton; Davis Hamilton, TE/ILB, sr., Sun Prairie; Nolan Harris, ILB, sr., Mosinee; Joe Hartlieb, QB, sr., Madison Edgewood; Keagan Henschel, DE, sr., Fond du Lac.
Reid Jamerson, DE, sr., Whitefish Bay; Jack Janke, DB, sr., Ellsworth; Ethan John, TE, sr., Oak Creek; Quentin Keene, QB, sr., Waunakee; Luke Kokat, TE, sr., Union Grove; Nate Kollath, QB, jr., Sussex Hamilton; Westen Liebzeit, HB/DB, sr., Reedsville; Cal Martine, RB, sr., Appleton North; Vitto Massa, QB, sr., River Falls; CJ McConkey, LB, sr., West Salem; Max McGuire, OL, sr., Darlington; Braeden Ott, RB, sr., Nicolet; Sam Paar, LB, sr., Oak Creek
Owen Pawlikowski, WR, sr., Kimberly; Brady Potaczek, WR, sr., Stanley-Boyd; Derek Ransanici, DB, sr., Hurley; Gilbert Rodriguez, DE, sr., Oak Creek; Matthew Schecklman, QB, sr., Appleton North; Austin Schlies, OLB, sr., Maple Northwestern; Davontre Smith, RB-LB, sr., Menasha; Cole Trimborn, WR-DB, sr., Nicolet; Evan Tyler, OLB, sr., Hudson; Isaac Vanden Bush, RB, sr., Luxemburg-Casco; Casey Verhagen, WR/DB, sr., Kohler/Lutheran/Christian; Ben Wesolowski, QB, sr., Wittenberg-Birnamwood; Tanner Zepczyk, OL, sr., River Falls.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin recruit Myles Burkett named AP football player of the year