When you have as many offers for college football scholarships as you have fingers, it’s understandable that your hands get full and your decision gets difficult.
“It’s definitely an experience. It was a great time, but it comes down to the hard part, going from 10 to one,” said Stone Bridge High School’s Rob Burns, who, until July 3, had such a dilemma.
That’s when the tall, speedy defensive end opted for the University of Virginia over nine other schools. All 10 schools play in college football’s highest-profile denomination, the Bowl Championship Series.
The rising Bulldog senior could have picked Stanford, Syracuse, Maryland, Duke, Wake Forest, Michigan State, Rutgers, Penn State or Boston College – an exceptional range of high-level interest.
The Burns family’s living room is adorned with a gallery of official offer letters, gathered over six months, framed to be kept for years. The Cavaliers were the first to offer Burns a ride, and ultimately provided the best fit for the Lansdowne resident.
“It was fun while it lasted, but now I’m relieved,” Burns said after publicizing his final selection. “I’ve found my spot.”
Local boy gets big
Burns grew up in Loudoun, playing football, basketball and lacrosse in youth leagues in Sterling and Ashburn.
By the time a middle-school growth spurt shot him up to above-average size, he had already developed a particular affinity for football.
“I just love to compete,” he said. “When I got to high school and got a lot better very quickly, kind of grew into my frame, I started playing really well and loved it.”
Burns gained varsity letters by suiting up for Stone Bridge’s lacrosse and track teams, but his play on the football field stood out the most.
He is ranked among the state’s top three defensive ends by VirginiaPreps.com, which also placed him as the No. 16 player overall.
Though he was recruited almost exclusively as a defensive end, Burns also plays tight end for Stone Bridge.
Bulldog coach Mickey Thompson said Burns will be a great addition to Virginia’s roster.
“He has good speed, he runs to the ball, he plays low,” Thompson said. “Character-wise, they couldn’t be getting a better kid.”
Burns returns the admiration to his coach.
“I think Coach Thompson’s one of the best high school coaches in the nation. Without him, I wouldn’t be close to where I am now,” Burns said of Thompson, one of the state’s winningest coaches since opening Stone Bridge in 2000. “The way he motivates guys to buy into the system is second to none.”
Burns was not a total stranger to the recruitment process. He observed his next-door neighbor, ex-Bulldog Andrew Nuss, go through it before selecting the University of Notre Dame in 2007.
Heating things up
Burns’ preparation for the next level already has begun. His family has hired a professional strength coach, Mark Nemish of the Washington Capitals, to help him add mass to a deceptively lanky 230-pound body.
Burns, who speaks with forethought and puts together sentences well, ended his junior academic year with a 4.01 GPA. He is pondering kinesiology and engineering as possible courses of study.
Prior to arriving in Charlottesville, Burns has unfinished business as a Bulldog.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do this season,” he said about Stone Bridge’s upcoming gridiron campaign, a year after the Bulldogs advanced to the Division 5 state final.
Burns easily drops into excited talk about some of the teammates he’ll be working with in the fall, several of whom are expected to find spots on collegiate rosters themselves.
“It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be fun,” he concludes.
School: Stone Bridge
Position: Defensive end
Height: 6 feet 7 inches
Weight: 230 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.73 seconds
Scholarship offers: 10
College: University of Virginia
Below view the Times-Mirror’s interview with Burns, conducted shortly before his ultimate decision to go with the Cavaliers.