Inside the Class of '06: Buck Burnette

Photo: Gary N. Zupancic/W.I.S.D.

The 17th in a daily series of 25 interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '06: spring enrollee Buck Burnette.

Buck Burnette
Offensive Lineman
Wimberley High School
6-3/295/5.70
NR: 73 SR: 59 Star Rating: ***

An Inside Texas conversation with Wimberley head coach Weldon Nelms on Buck Burnette:

IT: What are Buck’s strengths as a football player?

Nelms: Number one, he is a big physical kid with a good size. He has a tremendous work ethic. He is blessed as a kid that is 6-3 and weighs 300 pounds. He’s got great mobility in his feet and then he has great wingspan because of his hands and quickness for a kid that size. He plays with intensity and plays with a passion. He has that burning desire to be a great college (player)… and his dream is to hopefully to be taking it to the next level in the pros. He's just one of those unusual kids that I am very fortunate and very blessed to have the opportunity to coach, not only as a player but he is an even greater person. He is just one of those unusually mature, well mannered, was raised very well by a good Mom and Dad. He is one of those kids you know is going to make an impact and be a difference maker in life in whatever opportunity he gets because he has just got that charisma about him. He is an awfully talented young man.

IT: I know Coach McWhorter loves guys that have great feet and that mobility and athleticism but what was it that he told you that he really like about Buck?

Nelms: I remember when they came up and looked at us working out, the major thing when you just look at him physically, he has tree trunks for legs and he has such strong mobility and a base. He is so agile for a kid that size. I used to tease him especially in his freshman and sophomore year about being a dancing bear because he had such nimble feet for a kid that size and he moves really well. He has great strength too. A lot of times, especially in a 3A, 2A, 1A level sometimes you get kids that are big like that and they kind of play what I call soft because they are just bigger and they kind of dominate. He wasn’t like that. He was a kid that realized you have to play with some torque and some fire. Once he got locked in on people there just wasn’t anybody that could beat him. He took pride in getting those KO blocks and knocking people down and his pass protection with the quickness. Having to go around that wide body was pretty tough, so he was just one of those kids that had a good work ethic and he was blessed with a lot of size but he also worked real hard in the off season on the weights and the agility and getting his feet and preparing himself to play at the next level. He did things right.

IT: What did he play for you guys?

Nelms: He played offensive tackle for us. It was kind of a crazy deal, he was a deep snapper, he could deep snap on punts and extra points but we had kids that were a little bit faster and were about as good and they usually played. He was one of those kids if in fact we had a center hurt or a couple of centers hurt he could always step in there, he was always a good snapper. Then when Coach McWhorter started talking to me he said we are really going to look at him at center. I said yes, if we had two big tackles he would be ideal because he has such a smart head and he could make those calls because our center is real important and at the same time he has great mobility and movement. But for us he was our big left tackle and did an outstanding job.

IT: So it sounds like he's got the ability both physically and from a football IQ standpoint to play just about anywhere on the line?

Nelms: I think so. I think he could adapt wherever he chooses. I know that his drive, wherever he is placed he is going to be one of those kids that is going to battle. If he has to get better or has to get quicker he is going to work his rear end off to do that. He is a motivated type kid, smart, and he understands leverage and he understands strength and he also understands the game. He is very coachable and I know Coach McWhorter will love him because he is very coachable and takes everything in. Once he teaches him what he wants done, Buck is going to do everything he can to please him because he is just one of those kinds of kids that wants to please coaches.

IT: Obviously he is a guy that is already on campus and already working with the Texas coaches, but what are the things you saw of him that you thought, here are a couple of things he needs to work on as he develops in Austin?

Nelms: I told him when you go in there, and actually he has already come back and told me, Coach, you were right, he was big upstairs and his legs were going to match up with just about anybody because he has strong big legs. He is just massive down there. But I told him, he was so much stronger than most of our guys and the guys that he lined up against and he didn’t realize it but, I told him that he was going to be behind (in upper body strength) and that he was going to have to gain that... because you have a lot quicker linemen and you are going to have to move that upper body with the same kind of torque as your legs and he found that out, that he has got to gain some of that strength. I think that is one of the things that he has got to do. Then the speed of the game. Just like anybody you go from the 7th grade to the 8th grade, to a freshman, the JV to the Varsity level, you go to the college level and the speed of the game is going to change and he is going to have to make an adjustment and I think he will. He is one of those kids that will adapt but that is something I tried to explain to him. About every play is going to be just as physical as his most physical play that he played in high school. That is kind of the way I compared it to him to kind of give him an analysis but I don’t have any doubt in my mind that he will do that and he will make a great Texas Longhorn lineman somewhere. He is going to fit in the scheme because he wants to so bad and he is blessed with some size and speed and he is just one of those tremendous kids.

IT: A lot of really successful linemen and tight ends, they have this mentality of playing until the whistle. Is that something you saw out of Buck?

Nelms: That is something he won’t have any problem with. He understands that. That is one of our big mottos, finish your blocks and finish your tackles and finish your run. It is just something that we as the coaching staff have a philosophy to teach our kids, play until their play is over and not let up and always remember that your play is the big play and that is something that he has a passion for. In fact, he had a couple of times where he is working down field and getting blocks and he gets a flag, not in a way of hitting a kid late, he is just working through the play and he is a big kid and the kid that he hit is small and the official thinks that it is a late hit. He wasn’t one of those kids that just pushed on late, he is one of those that gets up and gets that next level. A lot of our screen package, it was fun to see him get out there and lead the way for that back, and be trying to go as fast as he could to try to be the lead blocker downfield. I don’t think that is going to be anything that he is not accustomed to but he also understands that those guys on the other side of the ball are going to be bigger and stronger and with torque and he is going to have to play with that torque from the start of the play to the end of the play or he is going to have a tough time.

IT: You have just kind of described his ethic out on the field, and you also mentioned earlier that he knows what he needs to get better in terms of upper body strength and just getting bigger and stronger and faster. Has he demonstrated to you in the past that work ethic that is required to meet all those goals that he needs to achieve?

Nelms: Absolutely, that is something he has going for him. As a young kid he was real big and he ate a lot, like all of us guys like to eat, and he had to understand about controlling weight. The greatest thing I have seen about his Mom and Dad is that we sat down here in our office and told him you are going to have to change some of your eating habits... For me, because I love to eat, to tell him not to be able to eat was almost like killing me, but you saw the kid sit down and take this in and put his body, realizing that he had to cut back on some of these snacks and different things and eat the right things and you have seen his body develop, especially from his sophomore year when he was kind of a little extra pudgy, and he solidified that body up and worked so hard to get that speed and to get his body in physical condition to be at his best his junior and senior year. I think that in and of itself impressed me about a big kid being able to do that. A lot of kids in high school, 16-, 17-year old kids, they don’t see that whole picture, and he did, and realized and he really worked hard and took pride in that, as far as his work ethic and dedication to doing what he had to do to be at a level to be able to play and be healthy. Being big like that, sometimes you worry about blood pressure and things like that. He took a challenge from that and put it as a priority and that was I guess in my book one of the best things I could dictate about his work ethic to put himself in the best possible situation where those people at UT would look at him and say, That kid is not fat. He is big but he is solid, and that was his work ethic and he did that, and it wasn’t just by grace, it was by hard work.

IT: Going in to UT, what were his measurables?

Nelms: He was a little over 6-3 and weighed about 298 I think. He had cut down during the season to about 295 but I think the last time we were teasing him about it he was under 300 and he got on there and he weighed about 298. He was just under 300.

IT: What did he mean to your football program?

Nelms: It was really big. He as a leader, number one. He led by example. The kids respected him and when things weren’t working well, he is one of those kids that would say, Hey! Even though we don’t like for somebody to get on us, but he had that particular drive that the kids listened to. Along with that he had a lot of love for his teammates. Even though he was one of those special kids that UT signed early, he never put that out there in front of his team. His team was number one and with his teammates and how he had a passion for each one of them and how he led this football team. Sometimes as a head coach you sit there and worry, This kid is going to UT and he is going to plan bigger and better things then Wimberley High School and is he going to lose a little because he had a great junior year, and you worry about that. He took on the leadership role of this football team and with the linemen. He didn’t look for a way out or, Hey, I’m good enough (already), he continued to get better and to prove himself. I thought that was why the kids looked to him and respected him and followed his lead. Here is a kid that could go to The University of Texas and he is working just as hard as this kid right here that never ever may play another down of football. I thought that was pretty special. I think that is very special to our game and at the same time his family is a good family and he is involved in his church and does things. The kids respected that fact that he was a good young man with good morals standards and he didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk too and I think that was big for our program.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Buck's ability as a football player?

Nelms: I think when he was a freshman he was, like I said, one of those abnormally big kids and we were kind of struggling and we were in a drill where we put him against some seniors. We had some pretty good senior linemen, and he began to hold his own and win that. You sometime see those kids and they're going to be just big kids and just average in 3A, but I think that was the first time when the lights came on, that he realized how physical (he could be) because he was kind of able to push around and shove around at a 9th grade level. Now, he had to play at an intensity, and through ordeals and he proved to himself, and that is when the lights kind of came on (for him) and also us as coaches, we realized, We got us a special one here. One of things that sticks out in my mind, that freshman year moving him up with the varsity and he ended up playing the last couple of games up there. That is when he knew, it was his dream to play four years on that varsity. He proved to himself in a drill that he was ready and when he did that the lights came on and that seemed to put him in that gear and that path and he seemed to get better each year.

IT: Is there anything you'd like to add about Buck that we didn't already cover?

Nelms: I think we covered it, but I just can’t say enough good things about him because he is such a great kid. I know at The University of Texas he will do them well and I am very proud of him. He deserves it and he earned it and if you ever get to meet him personally you will call me and tell me, I see exactly what you are talking about. He is the way he is because he is a great young man.

UT's Signing Day bio: A two-time first-team all-state selection who was a four-year letterman and starter on the offensive line … registered 163 pancake blocks over his final two seasons … helped Wimberley to a 23-4 record over that span … voted first-team 3A all-state as a senior by The Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association … tabbed first-team all-district 27-3A … led Wimberley to a 15-0 record and a 3A state championship … recorded 92 pancakes and did not allow a sack on the year … tabbed first-team 3A all-state by The Associated Press as a junior … also earned second-team 3A all-state honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association … helped Wimberley to and 8-4 record and the district championship (27-3A) … notched 71 pancake blocks on the season … earned academic all-district as a junior and senior … an honor roll student in high school … father, Grady, was an All-SWC offensive lineman and blocked for Eric Dickerson and Craig James at SMU … was a youth group leader at his church … enjoys playing the guitar, hunting and fishing … full name is Buck Wilson Burnette … born Nov. 3, 1987 in Austin, Texas.

"I prayed about it, and it's where God wants me to be. I'm really excited about already being here this semester and getting to know everyone and getting to know the campus. Everything felt right about the situation, and I'm excited to be here."

NEXT UP: GREG SMITH

Photos courtesy of Gary N. Zupancic/W.I.S.D. Public Information Officer

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