ZACHARY – Zachary High School athlete Sean Burrell has been turning heads on the track since he was a freshman, but the junior sprinter is also beginning to make a name for himself on the football field.
Not only has Burrell shown his ability to adapt to the rigors of different sports, he has proven himself capable of handling different roles within each sport.
No. 6 Zachary (5-2, 3-0) which visits Central (4-3, 3-0) in a key District 4-5A showdown at 7 p.m. Friday.
Versatile, a word that Broncos coach David Brewerton uses when he talks about Burrell, is an apt descriptor for the multi-sport athlete.
“A lot of times there are track kids that play football and you don’t see a lot of athleticism or shiftiness out of them,” said Brewerton, who plays Burrell at defensive back, kick returner and as the team’s punter. “They’re just open field track guys whereas Sean’s a little different than that. He does a lot of things, and his athleticism allows him to play multiple positions for us.”
That athleticism came in handy over the summer when Brewerton was looking for someone to step into the role of punter. The Broncos had tried several different punters during the spring but were yet to settle on anyone. During a team meeting, Brewerton asked if anyone thought they could punt the football, and he got an answer from Burrell.
“Sean said, ‘Coach, I’ll give it a try,’ and he went out there and kicked a moon rocket right off the bat,” Brewerton said. “True to his nature, once he became the punter, he started working on it every day. He’s a fierce competitor, and if he’s going to do it he wants to be the best at it.”
Another example of Burrell’s value came last week in Zachary’s 62-20 win at Denham Springs. The Broncos trailed 13-0 in the first five minutes of play and were looking to someone to give them a boost. That came from Burrell, who returned the ensuing kickoff after Denham Springs’ second touchdown 97 yards for a game-changing touchdown.
The play lit a fire for Zachary, which went on to score another 55 points before Denham Springs would score again.
“We started off slow and we needed a spark,” Burrell said. “Coach always says as long as the kick is returnable, return it. They kicked it, we had our blocks ready and it all opened up. I just had to outrun the kicker.”
Brewerton said the mood on the sideline prior to the return was calm. It changed after Burrell’s touchdown.
“Everybody was waiting for someone to make a big play, and that happened to be the one that sparked us,” Brewerton said. “Obviously, once that took place, we started playing some really good football.”
Outrunning athletes from opposing schools is something Burrell has done with regularity since his freshman year at Zachary. He won the 400-meter dash at the LHSAA outdoor track and field championships, but he was only getting started.
Last year, as a sophomore, Burrell won the 400 at the LHSAA state indoor meet, where he set a Division I meet record with a time of 48.29. He battled a pulled muscle at last year’s state outdoor meet, yet still set a state composite class record when he won the 400 (45.74).
Burrell said he is just beginning to draw attention from college recruiters interested in his track ability, and mentions LSU, Texas A&M and Missouri as some of the schools that have contacted him.
For now, Burrell is focused on football, but he says his teammates help push him to perform better regardless of the sport.
“Whether its track or football, we all try and push each other,” Burrell said. “On the football field during one-on-ones, receivers try to run their routes as hard as they can, and you have to try and guard them. In track, if we’re running a 400, we’re all pushing each other. If we’re running a 100, we’re going full speed trying to beat each other.”
The main difference between the two sports is football’s reliance on other players to be successful.
“In football, you have to worry about 11 men making plays,” Burrell said. “Everyone has to do their job, and if one messes up it could mean a big play for the other team. For one to do good, we all have to do good.”
So far, doing good things on the football field hasn’t been a problem for Burrell, who may well be the fastest punter in the state this season.