"In high school, my freshman year I didn't play football, but I started my sophomore year," Burgess told Pack Pride. "My problem was I didn't know anything about a core GPA. When it came to my grades, I was always thinking about my overall GPA that included electives and everything. I only ended up with a 1.9 core GPA and because of that I couldn't sign with one of the Division I schools."
Burgess certainly had his share of attention. In 2005, then a senior defensive lineman for Ridge View, Burgess totaled 108 tackles and 15 sacks. Considered one of the top 50 prospects in South Carolina, he earned an invitation to the 2005 North-South Game where he performed well. He was being heavily recruited by major colleges but knew signing was likely not an option.
"My senior year in high school I had 108 tackles, 15 sacks, and two touchdowns with an interception," said Burgess. "I was being recuited by schools like Georgia, South Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. I didn't have my grades so I couldn't go to any of them though."
The buzz around Columbia, South Carolina, home of Burgess and the SEC's Gamecocks, opened the door for him to end up at Georgia Military College.
"My senior year was the year everyone was big on Georgia Military," said Burgess. "Everyone was talking about the Brinkley bothers, Casper and Jasper, who ended up at [South] Carolina. They had played at Georgia Military.
"My coach got in touch with Georgia Military and they came up and watched me play in the North-South game. That's how I ended up there."
Burgess made the most of his opportunity. A two-year starter at GMC, he played his freshman season as a nose guard in the team's 3-4 scheme. After moving into the starting lineup early in the season, he finished with 20 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, six sacks, 20 quarterback pressures, five quarterback knockdowns, one interception, a batted pass, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
This season he moved to defensive end, freeing him up to apply more pressure on the quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 300-pounder totaled 30+ tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, five quarterback knockdowns, nearly 40 quarterback pressures, an interception return for a touchdown, two pass breakups, two fumbles recoveries, and a forced fumble.
"I started out there playing nose guard and moved out to end this year," he said. "I needed to step up for the team out there and it allowed me to go against more single blocking instead of double teams. I could have still played nose guard, and I'm going to be a defensive tackle at NC State."
College programs noticed his play. He garnered offers from NC State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Mississippi, and Troy among others before narrowing his focus to the Wolfpack, Cowboys, and Wildcats.
Fresh off a visit to KSU and with Signing Day looming, Burgess sat down and talked with his mother before making his decision.
"I was talking it over with my mom, and I was real confused," he said. "My mom just said that I had three good schools to pick from. She has never missed any of my games since Pop Warner, and she said she'd love to see me play in college.
"If I went to Oklahoma State and Kansas State she wouldn't get to see me play. I took that into consideration and went with that. It's important for her and all of my family and friends to see me play."
After making his decision, Burgess notified all of the coaches of his choice. NC State's staff expressed their feelings to him.
"Man, I could tell they were happy," he said. "I called coach McCollum and he said coach O'Brien was pacing up-and-down the hallway waiting to see what I would do.
"Coach O'Brien was real happy. He welcomed me to the Wolfpack and said I made a great decision. He told me to come in ready because next year we are going to win games."
Burgess admitted that the hardest part of the process was informing Oklahoma State and Kansas State that he wouldn't be playing there.
"It was tough because those are some schools that I could have went in and really played at," he said. "Those two were places that I know I could have went to, but I just wanted for everyone to see me play... plus I like NC State.
"Coach O'Brien had a lot of success at Boston College and I think he is going to win a lot of games at NC State too. Another thing was I had a good relationship with coach Keith Willis, the defensive line coach. I like him a lot."
Burgess made his decision official on December 19th, when he signed with NC State. Originally he expected to enroll in January and he still hopes that will be possible. However, if he can't he has a plan in place.
"Everything is official now with my commitment," he said. "I sent them in the papers [Wednesday] morning. As of right now, I still don't know yet with enrolling.
"I'm trying to make it in January but I have a couple of these courses. If I don't make it in January, they said May wouldn't be a problem at all. If I can't in January, what I'm going to do is work out back here at home, and I'll take some more classes at a college around here and knock some more of these credits out."