By LARRY VAUGHT
Several minutes before four-star offensive lineman Jager Burton was set to make his college decision public Sunday, he walked around thanking friends, family and even media members for coming.
That reminded me of something similar I saw former UK star Randall Cobb do before he spoke to a UK Alumni Club in Birmingham.
“That’s just how Jager is,” said Frederick Douglass High School coach Nathan McPeek. “He appreciates those around him.”
Burton picked Kentucky over Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon.
“All those schools were basically second. I was really high on all those schools at times but what happened is it clicked in my head I could do it here so why go anywhere else,” Burton said.
His mother said the crowd at KSBar & Grille is the type thing that probably did help influence her son’s decision.
“Throughout high school he’s had so much support,” Teresa Burton said. “He has family here from Breathiest County, Leslie County. He has a great family support system. He knows they are all big UK fans and he knows they would follow him anywhere but logistically it sure is nice if he’s playing in Lexington.”
She actually thought he might not go to Kentucky. She said Alabama was in the running. So was Ohio State.
“Of course we all loved Oregon but logistically that was challenging because it is so far from home,” she said.
Defending national champion Clemson had an edge — former Frederick Douglass teammate Walker Parks, a four-star offensive tackle.
“I thought if Walker starts out there and has a great experience it may persuade or influence Jager,” Teresa said. “Walker has been such a solid friend to Jager. Jager had the benefit of Walker being in front of him and Walker has given him some really good guidance and advice through this whole thing.”
Having to call the other head coaches and tell them he was committing to Kentucky was not easy for Burton.
“They were all really understanding and lot said they were not going to stop recruiting me but I told them I was not going anywhere. I have preached that from the beginning. I am not de-committing,” the Frederick Douglass senior said. “I am never doing that. Unless there is an unforeseen coaching change happens, I am not going anywhere.
“They (other head coaches) were all pretty intimidating (to talk to). It was emotional for me to call those guys. They kind of like give you your dream and you feel like in a way you are just throwing it back in their face like I don’t want it. Those guys understand and were grateful for me calling before (the announcement).”
Burton’s goal all along was to make his commitment before his senior season started and Frederick Douglass will start play Sept. 11. He wanted to make official visits but got to go to each of his final five schools before the pandemic hit.
“Now he’s going to wear blue and we are all happy for him,” Teresa said.
His father, Jeff, a former player at Morehead State, finally decided to ask him “point blank” where he wanted to go to college.
“I asked him and he said, ‘Dad, I think we can do it (at Kentucky). I think we can build on that and I want to be part of that because it is my hometown.’ When he said that I was good with getting everything done,” Jeff Burton said.