Introducing The 2003 Class: Justin Burks

One quick look at ASU's depth chart last season, revealed a glaring need to recruit a junior college linebacker and bring immediate impact at this position. In Justin Burks, the Sun Devils have been able to land the one of the best in the nation. In this exclusive DevilsDigest interview, Burks talks about his prospects of starting this season, as well as the impression that ASU had and still has on him.

One wouldn't think that a first team JC Grid-Wire All-American would have to be asking schools to notice him. Ironically enough, at one time the Cerritos Community College standout requested the Sun Devils to take note of him. "My freshman year in junior college I wrote a letter to ASU." Says Burks, "I asked them to keep an eye on me, and keep me in my mind. I think coach Osborne still has that letter (smile). But the first time I heard from them was only after my sixth or seventh game in my sophomore year." Needless to say that the JC transfer harbors no ill will towards the school he ultimately chose. "Yeah it's kind of weird when I think about writing letters asking to be noticed. But I feel everything happens for a reason, and everything worked out just fine."

The first team All-California Community College Football Coaches Association member recalls North Carolina and Arizona as the only schools who recruited him his freshman year. His stellar sophomore year which included 165 total tackles and three sacks, caused ASU, Florida and other schools to coming knocking on his door in a hurry. ASU, Florida, and North Carolina were Burks' final top three schools of consideration. "I didn't mind going far from home." Says the linebacker who hails from Norwalk, CA. "My whole attitude was to go to the best program for me. Florida is a household name, and has so many talented players come out there and play in the NFL. I felt that if I played there, I would have a chance too. North Carolina is a nice school too. But I guess deep down, I really wanted to stay in the west coast so my family and friends can see me play."

When specifically asked about the factors that caused the Sun Devils to be his school of choice, he replied: "Florida had already five or six linebackers. I wanted to play right away, and having all those linebackers was a lot of competition. I didn't want to wait for playing time, because I have only two years to play. The way North Carolina was talking; it was always too good to be true. ASU was true with me. My first meeting with coach Osborne was great. He's a real down to earth guy, and him and I connected right away. They didn't promise me to be a starter, but they said I would have a chance to compete and play this year."

Recruiting safeties for ASU's 4-2-5 scheme seems on paper an easier task than recruiting linebackers, since this alignment calls for three safeties but only two linebackers. Burks however, chose to look at the big picture. "It didn't make a lot of difference (playing only two linebackers). In the scheme here the linebackers make all the plays, and I like that. Coach Guy likes to rotate the linebackers a lot, so it doesn't matter if you start or not, you'll get to play a lot. It's a fun defense to play in."

On his official visit running back Mike Williams hosted the linebacker. "Him and I played in rival high schools, and we always kept in touch. It's nice to come to a program where you already know some players. It helps you get adjusted." The JC transfer was naturally awed by the world-class facilities such as the weight room. A few hours into his visit, he called a family member to rely his impressions. "I talked to my mom during the visit, and I told her I felt that ASU was the right place for me. So, I told the coaches on Sunday that I'm committing here. It was a pretty easy decision for me. When I visited here, I felt myself fitting in and being a part of the team."

The mild mannered Burks listed a surprising trait when he described his weaknesses. "I need to work on my temper. I can sometimes get carried away. I didn't get too many personal fouls whistled against me, but it was too many for me." Otherwise, he portrays himself as an energetic player. "I like to tackle, and be involved around the ball all the time. I have a high motor, and I like to stop and run just so I can always be around the ball. Run stops, pass drops…I like doing them both."

Justin Burks is one of the fortunate JC transfers to be already enrolled at ASU. Some of his campus experiences have actually lived up to his expectations. "School is going great. I'm gonna major in communications and minor in business. The classes are different because you have a lot more people, and there's a lot more reading involved. But it's all going fine. The ASU girls are just like I thought they would be (smile)." Being already enrolled not only allows the linebacker to participate in spring practice, but also take part in the off-season conditioning program. "When I got here. I wasn't in that great of a shape. But now I feel like I'm getting better each week."

When we asked him how anxious he was for the start of spring practice later this month, he eagerly said, "I wish spring practice started tomorrow! Mike Karney and I have a competition going on (smile). We'll see who does better in the spring…I feel real confident in myself. I just need to sit down, study the films, and see how the system works. I think I can do well here."

With three senior linebackers departing, and a depth chart full of inexperienced players, getting a player in the caliber of Justin Burks allows the ASU defensive coaching staff to feel a bit more comfortable about this position in 2003. The Cerritos star has been showered by accolades during his junior college career, and there's no reason to believe these compliments should come to an end at the Pac-10 level. Much is expected from Justin Burks and when you listen to his words you know he fully intends on delivering.

Recruit Profile

Name

Justin Burks

High School

Cerritos Community College

Position

LB

Height

6-3

Weight

235

Date of Birth

4/28/82

Birthplace

Long Beach, CA

Nickname

"They just called me Burks."

Favorite TV Show

Cops

Favorite Movie

He Got Game

Favorite Singer

Mariah Carey and Nelly

Favorite Food

Tacos

Favorite Drink

Hawaiian Punch

Favorite Athlete

Bo Jackson

Favorite Pro Team

Oakland Raiders

Person you most admire

"My mom. She's been through a lot. A lot of things were thrown at her, and she still had the strength and knowledge to be capable of raising me despite the situation."

First Football Memory

"I was about 10 playing youth ball. We lost in the championship game, but it was real exciting. I got to tackle the fastest guy on the other team, and that felt good (smile)."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"I'm real mean on the field, but off the field I'm real nice and down to earth."

Why did you choose ASU?

"ASU is on the rise. They had a good season last year, and things are looking up next year. I just wanted to be part of something special."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Obviously I'd love to play in the NFL. If not, I'd like to have a nice stable job with a family, and living comfortably. It would be cool to own my own corporation."


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