A baseball player who excels at hitting for average, hitting for power, base running skills and speed, throwing ability, and fielding abilities is known as a five-tool player. So, what would you call a hard-hitting, speedy defensive football player who possess punting, kicking, receiving and return skills? Ask Freddy Burton.
Burton, a 6-foot-2, 231-pound junior linebacker from Morrilton, Ark., hardly left the field as a high school footballer in central Arkansas. Although he cherishes the memories of Friday nights, he’s not so sure he wants a redo.
“Friday nights were tough,” said Burton. “Looking back though, you’re just so excited to be out there in that environment that you don’t really realize how drained you are until it’s all over. As for punting and/or kicking collegiately, let’s just say there’s a reason why I’m a linebacker now.”
Burton’s defensive specialty hasn’t always been at that outside linebacker position. A coaching change between his junior and senior seasons helped shed some light on Burton’s future in football.
“I was playing mostly safety back then,” said Burton, “but when coach [Buddy] Greeson came in, he actually said he liked me more at that outside linebacker position. I owe a lot to him for helping me along and allowing me to make that transition.”
When it came time to further his career in football, Burton had a few options. Offers from schools such as Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State could have made his decision a difficult one. However, once he got the call from Arkansas, his mind was made up.
“It’s so close to home and my family,” said Burton. “Add to that the tradition and all the stuff that goes down on game days, and it was a pretty easy decision.”
When it comes to appreciating the sights and sounds of Razorback game days, there is one particular aspect that makes Burton’s eyes light up.
“Running through the ‘A’,” said Burton. “What on Earth is better than running through the ‘A’?. You come out of the tunnel, get those chills down your back and see that sea of red. It’s a great feeling.
Though he cherishes the satisfaction he obtains by making a tackle or running through the ‘A’, Burton gets equally excited about what he can provide to others in the community.
“Giving back is something we, as a team, really enjoy,” said Burton. “We’re all blessed and fortunate to be in the position we’re in to give back. We know there are those out there that are less fortunate, so we all get excited to do our part.”
A recreation major at the University of Arkansas, Burton hopes to one day take the lessons he has learned between the lines and as a community volunteer and apply it in helping inner-city youth.
“Hopefully I can work with young kids in urban areas, and try to keep them off the streets,” said Burton. “Some kids need that positive influence in their lives, and I hope I can be in a position to provide some of that one day.”
Burton comes into the 2009 campaign while sitting solely atop the depth chart at the strong side linebacker position. While he’s accustomed to being a mid-season starter, he’s senses a change in mentality in being the main guy when the season kicks off.
“You definitely come in with a different mentality,” said Burton. “Not only do you want to make sure you keep that spot, but you have 10 other guys relying on you and they need to know you’re going to bring your best on every down. There’s a huge responsibility that goes along with it, I think.”
Though he didn’t start against Alabama in 2008, he announced his presence in a profound way: accumulating 16 total tackles in his first game of action. He went on to start six games in 2008.
Though he may have done it all as a high school senior in central Arkansas, Burton has narrowed his focus to being the best linebacker he can be. There is one thing that has carried over from his high school days, he says: a familiar voice in the stands.
“My grandmother still yells like I’m in high school,” said Burton. “Everytime I come to the sidelines I can hear her, and I’m reminded of who I am and why I’m here.”