Walking-on a collegiate sports team is tough. No scholarship, no free meals, no recognition. It takes hard work and dedication on days when it is hard to keep pushing. Mississippi State walk-on quarterback Logan Burnett is finding all of this out first hand.
Who is Logan Burnett?
Mississippi State’s freshman walk-on quarterback has grown with the game of football all of his life.
Born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, to a football coach as his dad and an English teacher as a mom, Burnett’s life has been in sports and academics since day one. Brett Burnett, his father, was the head coach of the Elizabethtown High School Panthers, coaching future NFL and Alabama defensive end Brandon Deaderick and Auburn quarterback Chris Todd. In 2005, led by both Deaderick and Todd, Burnett took Elizabethtown High School to their first State Championship Game in 24 years.
Also on the sidelines taking in the moment was young Logan Burnett. As an only child, his father’s football teams quickly became his family. The team’s ball boy had dreams of following in Todd’s footsteps of leading his high school to the championship game and playing quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
I dove into find out about Burnett’s journey and what it is like for a walk-on quarterback in the SEC.
Being a ball boy on those sidelines and watching his father’s team play on Friday nights in Kentucky impacted Burnett’s love for the game. One player specifically stood out from the beginning:
“Growing up around the game”, Logan Burnett says, “I quickly developed a love for it. From the earliest I remember, I wanted to be a quarterback. Watching and being around Chris (Todd) further solidified that.”
Burnett vividly remembers watching Todd make history in Kentucky. Todd, Auburn’s signal caller during the 2008 and 2009 seasons, put up video game-like numbers for Elizabethtown on his way to throwing for 10,776 yards and 120 touchdowns during his high school career. Despite all of the impressive yards, numbers, and statistics, it was the work ethic that still stands out today:
“I remember being at practice and Chris would stay after by himself and just throw balls into a trash can with no one else out there.” Burnett says, “or he would organize something where all the receivers would stay after and catch balls. Those type of things really stuck with me. He was a great example of how a leader should be.”
This kind of work ethic is what it takes to play quarterback in the SEC. Burnett studied Todd’s habits and the way he acted when no one was watching. As a young ball boy watching his father’s team play, Burnett was determined to pick up techniques and strong character to help him reach his dream. Staying after practice, studying film, and pushing yourself to the limit is necessary to fulfill the dream of being a Division-1 signal caller. The public does not see the summer workouts, the speed training, or the dedication to the game when the times get tough.
By the time it was time for his own high school career, Burnett was in Pelham, Alabama, a suburb outside of Birmingham. He was going to play under his dad as the position that he has grown up loving. Burnett was never a highly rated prospect, but his natural leadership and his work ethic always pushed him to another level. The man closest to him has had the biggest influence on why his leadership and work ethic is shown in everything that he does.
"(My dad) always tells me leaders make everyone around them better. That's really something I always try to carry with me."
No matter if it’s mowing the lawn on a Sunday afternoon while his New England Patriots are playing, or if it’s in the huddle during a critical two-minute drill, Burnett takes his father’s words to heart. He puts everything he has into everything he does, big or small, and it is the reason why he has the amazing opportunity of playing quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
A change of events changed the course of how Logan Burnett ended up at a Division-1 program. Prior to his senior year, Pelham decided to move in a different direction at Head Coach. This challenged Burnett’s character. How was he going to respond to the adversity?
Instead of complaining or holding any grudges, the young quarterback took what his dad taught and installed in him to Bessemer Academy. Starting over at a new school had its challenges, but the goal was still the same: win a State Championship. Understanding that championships are won in the off-season, Burnett wanted to jump right in and create a connection with his new receivers and teammates.
"I got there in the summer and I really tried to organize a lot of throwing with our receivers. Our coaches did a really good job of taking us to a lot of 7-on-7s and helping us create a lot of chemistry."
Wearing the number 12 like his role model Chris Todd, Burnett was determined to achieve his dream of winning a State Championship.
Right out of the gate, the 6-foot-1 signal caller took command of the huddle and the team. En route to a perfect district and regular season, the goal of becoming champion looked to be in sight. Burnett used his leadership to keep his teammates level-headed in order to reach their ultimate goal. During his senior season for the Rebels, number 12 threw for 2,752 yards, along with an impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio of 25-to-4.
After getting through the playoffs with relative ease, it was time for the opportunity that Burnett has been craving for since his days as a ball boy: a chance to win a ring.
Before Bessemer Academy was set to face unbeaten Monroe Academy inside Troy University's Veterans Memorial Stadium for all the marbles, a familiar person let Burnett know that he would be in attendance. That person? Chris Todd.
With Todd in the stands and his dream only four quarters away, Burnett made sure to not let the golden opportunity go to waste. Burnett took full advantage, throwing for 213 yards and tossing a touchdown on his way to being honored as the Offensive Player of the Game and reaching the amazing feat of becoming a State Champion in a 34-6 victory.
Just a quick few months after fulfilling his childhood dream, the recruiting process started to heat up. Turning down interest from smaller schools, Burnett accepted a Preferred Walk-on opportunity with the Bulldogs. While he was aware of the dedication it would take to walk-on in the SEC, Burnett felt like Starkville was where he needed to be.
"It was always my dream to play SEC football and after praying about it a ton, I felt God was leading me here. I am blessed to have the opportunity to play here, and I feel like God has me here for a reason."
His faith has led him to wearing a Maroon and White jersey and becoming part of a family. Last season, he participated on the scout team during practice, portraying the QB the Bulldogs’ defense would face that upcoming Saturday. His work will not receive the same recognition as others, but Burnett studied the playbook intensely, and he made sure to give the defense the best looks that he possibly could.
A typical day in the life of Logan Burnett as walk-on for Mississippi State includes attending classes and lectures, watching film and learning new techniques, and practicing on the scout team or going through QB drills, all while finding the time to complete homework, have a social life, and get enough rest. There is no scholarship, no free meals, and no fame. Being a walk-on in the SEC is not easy, but Burnett loves every part of what comes with it.
While Nick Fitzgerald and Keytaon Thompson receive all of the hype (and deserving so), remember to keep in mind that there is another player sitting in those QB meetings - a former ball boy giving his all to this University each and every day during every workout, class, and practice rep, despite most of the fan base not knowing his name.