Tale of the Underdog: Elite 11 MVP

Malibu, Calif.— All week long, 24 quarterbacks from coast to coast have been competing to earn one of the top 11 spots at this year's Elite 11 quarterback camp. Although only four and five-star quarterbacks have gained MVP honors in the past, Neal Burcham (6-3, 180) retaliated against the norm and became the camp's first unranked and unrated MVP.

This week could have been another Disney Original series respectively titled, ‘The Tale of the Underdog.' All week long, 24 quarterback recruits from all over the nation competed against each other to become a part of a unique fraternity called the Elite 11. The camp included quarterbacks of all ratings: three five-stars, seven four-stars, 12 three-stars, and one two-star.

However, there was one quarterback who didn't have any stars at all. So, who was the last quarterback to complete the 24-man roster?

Perhaps everyone had that question on their mind before mid-week. The last quarterback to make the list has long shaggy hair. He is not the fastest guy on the field nor the biggest. He doesn't have more than one offer and is not rated at all by most recruiting experts.

But, the unranked and unrated Neal Burcham has proved that ratings don't mean squat. After a long week of proving himself, Burcham shared the MVP award with both five-star Jameis Winston and BYU commit Tanner Mangum.

"It means so much to me," Burcham said excitedly. "It is such an honor being with such great quarterbacks. These guys are great. They know what they are doing. Being in the top 11 with these guys is such a great honor. I can't even describe the feeling."

Although Burcham has just one offer from Central Arkansas, a school in his home state, the young quarterback's stock should rise in the following weeks in response to his MVP performance at this year's Elite 11.

Burcham said that his lack of offers hasn't really affected his focus or his desire to play in college.

"A lot of guys have been talking to me about it," said Burcham. "I have just been kind of, not really blowing it off, but feeling like if I come out here and I throw and I do what I prepared to do and I do what I know I can do, all of that will take care of itself. If I'm not good enough then it's going to show and I am not going to get them. But if I just come out here and do my thing, then people will notice and it's going to take care of itself."

Burcham admitted that his lack of offers might not be the only thing that has been keeping college coaches away.

"Size and quickness are my two weaknesses," said Burcham. "I have talked to a lot of guys and they said they have had huge athletes and huge talent, but, if they didn't have the mental aspect of the game, then they couldn't do it. Some college coaches look at me and say he's too small and not fast enough, but if they really got to know me, they would know I am willing to learn and mentally, I'm sharp."

The camp counselors preached about a quarterback's mentality all week to the 24 prospects. Burcham said the mental part of the camp is what he will remember most.

"The mental aspect of the game is so important and I learned that this week," he said. "I knew it, but I didn't realize how much of a big deal it was. The counselors just taught me that mentally you have to be prepared and focused. You have to be ready to go each and every play. Reading defenses is also important. They all did a great job of teaching it to me."

ESPN analyst and 14-year NFL veteran, Trent Dilfer, attended the camp as a coach. Dilfer said he told the guys around midnight on Wednesday that they needed to learn the whole playbook by morning. Without a complaint, Burcham said he did just that.

"This camp has been a lot different than high school," laughed Burcham. "Like [Trent Dilfer] said, we prepared harder this week than most college training camps do their first week. It was different, but if you love the game and you want to succeed, then you are going to do what it takes. It's not like a job to you. You want to stay up and study the playbook so that you can perform on the field."

Two of the trio of MVPs, Burcham and Winston, were roommates over the course of the camp.

"[Winston] is a great guy," said Burcham. "He is a great quarterback as well. We became pretty good friends. I think rooming together has a lot to do with [winning the MVP with him]. There were things that he taught me and there were things that I taught him. We just worked together."

Having never been to California before, Burcham said he enjoyed his stay on the west coast.

"It was amazing," said Burcham. "I have never been to California, so the sights were great and everything like that. As far as coaching and learning, I have learned so much in this week right here than I have ever learned. It's amazing. Also, competing with these guys has made me learn more and want to learn more. The college quarterbacks that were counselors were giving me tips here and there. Coach Dilfer, Coach Whitfield, and Coach Yogi [Roth] all did a great job of teaching me little stuff here and there that I can take back with me."

When Burcham heads back to Arkansas, the reality of his limited offers will once again sink in. However, Burcham said he won't be affected by that and will continue to visit schools that interest him. He has already taken visits to Arkansas, Alabama, and Missouri, but said he will add Oklahoma State to his visit list later on.

Even though he has no offers from any of the school's he has visited, Burcham said he knows what he is looking for and hopes that after winning the MVP at the most elite quarterback camp in the nation, offers will start floating his way.

"I am not looking for what schools can tell me," explained Burcham. "I am looking for what they can do. Winning is huge for me. I want to go to a school that wins. I want to go to a school that is used to winning. Another thing is coach and team comradely. You have to be comfortable with your teammates and your coaches if it's going to work out. I don't really have a dream school either. I grew up with my parents being Razorback fans. So if the opportunity comes and that's the school that I feel like is a good situation, then I will go there but I am not set on any one school or any one situation."

Burcham proved himself as an elite quarterback worthy of more than what he can show on paper. He is true winner. He has proved that by rising above the rest of the 21 quarterbacks and standing among his two competitors and, now, friends as an MVP.

"I am willing to do whatever it takes to win," said Burcham. "If I have to push a guy to play better, or tell a guy to do something that he's not doing, or get in the weight room, or be the first one to practice, I am going to do it. I am just going to do whatever it takes to win."

Burcham said he doesn't know if he will be attending any more camps this summer. However, the MVP said he will continue to work toward his goal of playing for a collegiate program with a winning tradition.

Scout Football Top Stories